Southern California’s housing market remained sluggish in February despite relatively strong demand from investors and others paying cash for homes. Prices appeared fairly flat as many potential home buyers stayed on the sidelines and waited – whether for a sign values have bottomed, job security has improved or credit has loosened, a real estate information service reported.
Last month 14,369 new and resale houses and condos sold in Los Angeles, Riverside, San Diego, Ventura, San Bernardino and Orange counties. That was down 0.6 percent from 14,458 in January, and down 6.4 percent from 15,359 in February 2010, according to DataQuick Information Systems of San Diego.
The total number of homes sold last month was the lowest for a February since 2008, when 10,777 sold, and the second-lowest since 1995, when 12,459 sold. Last month’s sales fell 19.5 percent short of the Southland’s average February sales tally – 17,848 – since 1988.
Last month’s distressed sales – the combination of sales of foreclosed homes and “short sales” – accounted for well over half of the resale market.
Foreclosure resales – properties foreclosed on in the prior 12 months – made up 37.1 percent of resales last month, up from 36.8 percent in January but down from 42.4 percent a year ago. Over the past year foreclosure resales hit a low of 32.8 percent last June but since then they’ve trended higher. Foreclosure resales peaked at 56.7 percent in February 2009.
Short sales – transactions where the sale price fell short of what was owed on the property – made up an estimated 19.8 percent of Southland resales last month. That was up from an estimated 19.7 percent in January, 18.4 percent a year earlier, and 12.0 percent two years ago.
The abundance of distressed homes for sale continues to attract unusually high levels of investor and cash-only buyers. Buyers who paid cash accounted for a record 31.7 percent of February home sales, paying a median $200,000. That was up from 30.4 in January and 30.1 percent a year earlier. The February cash level was the highest for any month in DataQuick’s statistics back to 1988. The 10-year monthly average for the percentage of Southland homes purchased with cash is 13.1 percent. Cash purchases are where there was no indication in the public record that a corresponding purchase loan was recorded.
At the county level last month, the overall median sale price fell on a year-over-year basis in four counties and was unchanged in two. Declines from a year ago were logged in Orange (-1.7 percent), Riverside (-1.0 percent), San Diego (-4.3 percent), and Ventura (-1.4 percent) counties, while the median was the same as a year ago in Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties.
The median paid for the largest home-type category – resale single-family detached houses – fell year-over-year last month in Orange (-3.1 percent), San Diego (-3.1 percent) and Ventura (-9.6 percent) counties. The other three counties recorded annual gains ranging from 2.6 percent in Los Angeles and Riverside counties to 3.6 percent in San Bernardino County.
The typical monthly mortgage payment that Southland buyers committed themselves to paying was $1,174 last month, up from $1,128 in January and down from $1,180 in February 2010. Adjusted for inflation, current payments are 48.1 percent below typical payments in the spring of 1989, the peak of the prior real estate cycle. They are 57.4 percent below the current cycle’s peak in July 2007.
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