L.A.-area housing market closes out year on a high note

A turnaround year by all measures. Southern California home sales were up 5.1 percent in December compared with the previous month and 5.3 percent from a year earlier, according to Dataquick. The Socal median price was $321,000, up nearly 20 percent from a year ago. L.A.'s median price rose 15.4 percent from a year earlier, to $352,000. The overall housing market recovered more than many experts had expected, but it was the move-up sector that finally took off, often fueled with cash purchases. December sales over $500,000 shot up 40 percent year-over-year, while sales over $800,000 jumped 36.3 percent. With inventory levels still low, buyers are swooping in whenever a decent property is listed. In my neighborhood it's a zoo - bidding wars have become so fierce that it's not unusual for a home to be sold for at least $100,000 above the asking price. One house went for $200,000 above asking. Once more homes are available, the craziness will probably settle down, but for now it's a great time to sell a house. From the Dataquick press release:

"The housing market had more to offer in 2012 than many anticipated. A lot of markets not only found a price bottom as foreclosures waned but they started to see their first meaningful gains in nearly two years. Buyers on the fence were drawn back into the housing game by amazingly low mortgage rates, a brighter jobs outlook and, in some cases, a renewed sense of urgency," said John Walsh, DataQuick president. "Last year should also be remembered as the year the move-up market awoke. If these upward trends hold, which requires a sustained economic recovery, we should eventually see more inventory hit the market. More would-be sellers will be satisfied with what their homes can fetch, and fewer people will owe more than their homes are worth, freeing them up to move. The rise in inventory would at least tame price appreciation."

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Mark Lacter
Mark Lacter created the LA Biz Observed blog in 2006. He posted until the day before his death on Nov. 13, 2013.
Mark Lacter, business writer and editor was 59
The multi-talented Mark Lacter
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