Socal home prices taking off

march2.jpgMarch's median price was up 23.4 percent, to $345,000, the highest level in more than four-and-a-half years, according to Dataquick (prices were a bit higher in L.A. County). Sales were up 3.1 percent from a year earlier and 29.1 percent from February. The year-over-year sale surge has been especially noticeable in the higher-end market; the number of homes sold for $500,000 or more jumped 40.2 percent from a year earlier, while the $800,000+ category was up 33.4 percent. Cash remained a popular method of payment, accounting for 34.1 percent of March homes sales (the monthly average going back to 1988 is 16 percent). To anyone looking for a home in certain parts of L.A., none of this should come as a surprise. The inventory of available properties remains tight and pent-up demand remains strong - meaning lots of multiple offers that sometimes result in sales that go beyond the asking price. Some real estate agents have deliberately kept asking prices on the low side in order to attract buyers who might then bid up the property. That, of course, assumes there's heavy demand for the property. But while selling your house is getting easier, buying another one in the L.A. area is becoming a lot harder. That's one reason the number of buyers has stayed on the low side. The market is improving, but it's imbalanced. From Dataquick news release:

"It's remarkable how much the housing scene has changed in a year. At this point in 2012 there were still plenty of folks sitting on the market's sidelines, waiting to be sure the recovery was real. But gradually the psychology shifted as the economy picked up steam and mortgage rates fell to historic lows. We're seeing the release of a lot of pent-up demand, especially in the middle and higher-priced neighborhoods where activity had been sluggish for years," said John Walsh, DataQuick president. "Price measures continue to rise for two simple reasons," Walsh added. "First, demand for homes has risen at a time when the available supply is unusually low. Prices have had nowhere to go but up in many areas. Second, the gains are especially high right now because of the change in market mix: Sales of lower-cost homes have fallen at the same time activity in the higher price ranges has risen."

MARCH HOME SALES (% change from March 2012)
Los Angeles 6,962 +2.8%
Orange 3,063 +7.2%
Riverside 3,532 -6.0%
San Bernardino 2,406 -4.2%
Ventura 856 +4.4%

MARCH MEDIAN PRICE (% change from March 2012)
Los Angeles $380,000 +24.2%
Orange $505,000 +26.3%
Riverside $245,000 +22.5%
San Bernardino $190,000 +26.7%

Source: DataQuick,

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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
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