Wednesday, February 13, 2013

DataQuick: January Home Sales in SoCal highest in Six Years

by Bill McBride on 2/13/2013 12:59:00 PM

One of the housing markets I follow closely is southern California. I highlighted a couple of key points in this article: 1) Activity is picking up, especially in the move-up markets, 2) there should be a "supply response" to more activity and rising prices (I expect more supply to come on the market), and 3) foreclosure resales are at the lowest level since 2007.

From DataQuick: Southland Begins 2013 With Sales and Price Gains Vs. Year Earlier

Southern California's housing market started 2013 with the highest January home sales in six years as sales to investors and cash buyers hovered near record levels and move-up activity remained relatively brisk. ...

A total of 16,058 new and resale houses and condos sold in Los Angeles, Riverside, San Diego, Ventura, San Bernardino and Orange counties last month. ... Last month’s sales were the highest for the month of January since 18,128 homes sold in January 2007, though they were 8.8 percent below the January average of 17,609 sales. The low for January sales was 9,983 in 2008, while the high was 26,083 in 2004.

“This fledgling housing recovery has momentum. Already, price hikes have caused some to question whether it's sustainable, whether it's a 'bubble.' Let's not forget, though, that we're still climbing out of a deep hole from the housing downturn. Regional home sales remain sub-par and prices in many areas are at least 30 to 40 percent below their peaks. That's not to say we don't see risks. Sharp price gains can attract speculation, which could lead to unsustainable, short-term gains in certain submarkets. A lot of today's housing demand is fueled not by spectacular job growth and soaring consumer confidence, but by super-low mortgage rates and unusually high levels of investor and cash purchases. Take away any one of those elements and it will matter,” said John Walsh, DataQuick president.

For the overall market, price pressures should gradually ease as more homeowners react to rising values. This is the 'supply response' many analysts expect. The idea is that many who've held out for higher prices will be tempted to stick a for-sale sign in the front yard. Fewer will owe more than their homes are worth, enabling them to sell. Construction is already rising, and we could see lenders clear backlogs of distressed properties faster, adding to the supply.”

The move-up market continued to post sizeable sales gains last month. January sales between $300,000 and $800,000 – a range that would include many first-time move-up buyers – shot up 49.6 percent year-over-year. Sales over $500,000 jumped 74.0 percent from one year earlier, while sales over $800,000 rose 84.2 percent compared with January 2012.

Last month foreclosure resales – properties foreclosed on in the prior 12 months – accounted for 15.0 percent of the Southland resale market. That was up slightly from 14.2 percent the month before and down from 32.6 percent a year earlier. In recent months foreclosure resales have been at the lowest level since September 2007. In the current cycle, foreclosure resales hit a high of 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 25.9 percent of Southland resales last month. That was down from an estimated 26.5 percent the month before and 27.2 percent a year earlier.
Emphasis added