Southern California home sales turned in another lackluster month in March, the result of a fussy mortgage market, slow job growth and a continued wait-and-see attitude among potential buyers and sellers. There were signs, however, that the market was a little less dysfunctional than in recent months, a real estate information service reported.
A total of 19,412 new and resale houses and condos sold in Los Angeles, Riverside, San Diego, Ventura, San Bernardino and Orange counties in March. That was up 35.1 percent from 14,369 in February, and down 5.2 percent from 20,476 in March 2010, according to DataQuick of San Diego.
Sales always increase from February to March. Last month’s sales count was 21.4 percent below the 24,706 average for all the months of March since 1988. Sales so far this year are 20 percent below the norm. During the last half of 2010 sales were 25-30 percent below average.
Sales of newly built Southland homes totaled 1,144, the lowest March in DataQuick’s statistics, which go back to 1988. The peak March was in 2006 with 7,205 sales. The March new-home average is 3,661.
The median price paid for a Southland home last month was $280,500, up 2.0 percent from $275,000 in February, and down 1.6 percent from $285,000 for March a year ago.
“As an indicator of upcoming trends, the month of March is actually pretty reliable. We got off to a slow start with sales this year and it doesn’t look like that will change anytime soon. Two of the likely game changers in the short run would be a surge in job creation or another round of price corrections,” said John Walsh, DataQuick president.
“The foreclosure issue is going to be with us for a good while. But mortgage availability, or rather the lack thereof, is key. If a well-crafted home loan program comes down the pike, it’s going to make some lending institution the dominant player, at least for a while,” he said.
Absentee buyers – mostly investors and some second-home purchasers – bought 26.0 percent of the Southland homes sold in March, paying a median $205,000. The absentee share of the market reached a peak in February at 26.4 percent. Over the last decade, absentee buyers purchased a monthly average of 16.3 percent of homes.
Cash purchases accounted for 30.5 percent of March home sales, paying a median $205,250. The cash purchase share was down from 32.3 percent in February, the all-time high, but up from 27.9 percent a year earlier. The 10-year monthly average for Southland homes purchased with cash is 13.3 percent. Cash purchases are where there was no indication in the public record that a corresponding purchase loan was recorded.....
The typical monthly mortgage payment that Southland buyers committed themselves to paying was $1,185 last month, up from $1,174 in February and down from $1,220 in March 2010. Adjusted for inflation, current payments are 48.0 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.
Indicators of market distress continue to move in different directions. Foreclosure activity remains high by historical standards but is lower than peak levels reached over the last two years. Financing with multiple mortgages is very low, and down payment sizes are stable, DataQuick reported.
| ||Sales Volume||Median Price|