Monday, October 20, 2008

DataQuick: SoCal home sales up, 50% of Sales from Foreclosures

by Bill McBride on 10/20/2008 03:41:00 PM

From DataQuick: Southland home sales up, prices down; foreclosures now half the market (hat tip Peter Viles at L.A. Land)

Southern California home sales shot up by an unprecedented 65 percent last month from the dismal, record lows of a year ago, when a credit crunch slammed the brakes on home financing. September sales also posted a rare gain over August as price cuts lured more buyers. Foreclosure resales rose to half of all transactions.

A total of 20,497 new and resale houses and condos closed escrow in the six-county Southland in September, up 5.8 percent from 19,366 in August and up 64.6 percent from 12,455 in September 2007, according to San Diego-based MDA DataQuick, a real estate information service.

Last month's sales were the highest for any month since December 2006 and the year-over-year gain was the highest for any month in DataQuick's statistics, which go back to 1988. However, last month's sales were still the second-lowest for any September since 1996 and were 17 percent below the 20-year sales average for that month.
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"The pitifully low September 2007 sales numbers weren't tough to beat. More impressive was that this September's sales volume bucked the seasonal norm and rose above August. Steep price declines, especially inland, have improved housing affordability quite a bit and may keep sales levels well above the record lows we saw late last year and early this year. It will depend on the severity of this economic downturn," said John Walsh, MDA DataQuick president.

"You have to view last month's sales in the proper context," he cautioned. "They represent escrow closings, which reflect purchase decisions made in mid-to-late summer. That was before the dramatic worsening of the nation's economic crisis in recent weeks. Over the next few weeks our sales data will begin to show how the meltdown in financial markets this fall has impacted housing demand."
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Fifty percent of all existing homes that closed escrow in September had been foreclosed on at some point in the prior year. That's up from 45.5 percent in August and 12.6 percent in September last year.

At the county level, such foreclosure resales ranged from 36.8 percent of September resales in Orange County to 68.9 percent in Riverside County. In Los Angeles County foreclosure resales were 39.1 percent of all resales; in San Diego 47.3 percent; San Bernardino 63.1 percent and in Ventura County 44.0 percent.
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Indicators of market distress continue to move in different directions. Foreclosure activity is at or near record levels ...
DataQuick shows median house prices have fallen significantly in SoCal, but these median prices are distorted by the mix of houses sold.