Here's the good bits.
A total of 15,361 new and resale homes closed escrow last month in Los Angeles, Riverside, San Diego, Ventura, San Bernardino and Orange counties. That was down 31.2 percent from December’s 22,328, but up 0.9 percent from 15,227 in January 2009, according to MDA DataQuick of San Diego.
A decline in sales between December and January is normal for the season. On average, sales have fallen 28.4 percent between those two months since 1988, when DataQuick’s statistics begin.
January’s 15,361 sales mark the highest total for that month since 18,128 sales in January 2007. However, last month’s tally was 14.4 percent below the average number of sales for a January – 17,938 – since 1988.
Last month the sales pattern shifted a bit, with a greater portion of transactions involving distressed properties and lower-cost inland homes. Meanwhile, sales in many pricier areas lost some of the steam they had built in recent months, though high-end sales still outpaced the year-ago level.
The median paid for all Southland houses and condos sold in January was $271,500, down 6.1 percent from $289,000 in December but up 8.6 percent from $250,000 a year earlier. It was the median’s second consecutive year-over-year increase. In December 2009 the median rose 4 percent from a year earlier, marking the first time the median had increased year-over-year since August 2007, when it rose 2.7 percent to $500,000, near its all-time peak. In late 2008 and early 2009, the year-over-year declines in the median ranged from 30 to 40 percent.
On a month-to-month basis, the median had increased or held steady for eight consecutive months before dropping 6 percent in January compared with December. January’s median was 46.2 percent lower than the peak Southland median of $505,000 reached during several months in early and mid 2007.
Part of the January median’s drop from December can be explained by the shift toward a higher portion of Southland sales occurring inland: The percentage of sales that were in the Inland Empire (Riverside and San Bernardino counties) rose to 35.2 percent, up from 32.3 percent in December and the highest since it was 36.3 percent in May 2009.
Last month offered no signs of improvement in the jumbo mortgage market, which fuels sales in the higher-cost coastal areas. Mortgages above $417,000 – formerly the definition of a jumbo loan – accounted for 14.2 percent of all home purchase loans, down from a 13-month high of 16.7 percent in December 2009. Such jumbo loans made up nearly 40 percent of purchase loans before the August 2007 credit crunch.
Another gauge on the state of financing for high-end sales showed no change last month from December: 4.4 percent of purchase loans had an adjustable rate, the same as in December but up from 2.2 percent a year earlier. Use of adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) remains extremely low in an historical context. Over the last decade, ARMs averaged 40 percent of monthly purchase loans.
Government-insured FHA loans, a popular choice among first-time buyers, accounted for 36.9 percent of all home purchase mortgages in January. That’s down from 42.2 percent a year ago but up from 5.7 percent two years ago and up from 0.4 percent three years ago.
Absentee buyers – mostly investors and some second-home purchasers – bought 22.3 percent of the homes sold in January. That was up from 19.8 percent in December and up from 16.6 percent a year earlier. It was the highest for any month since at least 2000. San Bernardino County saw the highest percentage – 30.2 percent – sold to absentee buyers last month.
Buyers who appeared to have paid all cash – meaning there was no indication of a corresponding purchase loan being recorded – accounted for 28.9 percent of January sales, based on an analysis of public records. That’s up from 25.7 percent in December and up from 22 percent in January 2009. January’s figure was the highest since at least 1988. The 22-year monthly average for Southland homes purchased with cash is 13.9 percent.
Home “flipping” also trended higher in January, when 3.5 percent of the homes sold were ones that had previously sold between three weeks and six months prior. January’s flipping rate varied from as little as 2.3 percent of all sales in San Diego County to as much as 4.5 percent in Ventura County. A year ago no Southland county had a flipping rate over 2.1 percent.
|Sales Volume||Median Price|