Thursday, March 18, 2010

DataQuick: California Bay Area Sales decline Slightly

by Bill McBride on 3/18/2010 03:28:00 PM

Note: since the mix is changing, the median price is not useful. The repeat sales indexes - like FirstAmerican CoreLogic and Case-Shiller - have problems too, but they probably are better for actual price changes.

From DataQuick: Bay Area home sales down slightly from last year, median sale price rises

Bay Area home sales were subpar again in February, dipping below the year-ago level for the second straight month as some potential buyers worried about job security, some couldn’t get financing and others found a thin inventory of homes for sale. ...

Last month’s sales fell 22.2 percent short of the February average of 6,413 sales since 1988, when DataQuick’s statistics begin.

February’s sales were the second-lowest for that month since 1995, behind the record-low 3,989 homes sold in February 2008. January and February this year are the only two months since August 2008 in which sales have fallen year-over-year.

“The sales and price data remain choppy, with more ups and downs and inconsistencies than we’d typically see. It’s partly the season – January and February are often atypical and don’t serve as good barometers. But it’s more than that. The market remains fundamentally off kilter. There’s still relatively little lending going on in the upper price ranges, and little adjustable-rate financing, which had been vital to the Bay Area. Investor and cash-only deals remain well above normal, as does the level of sales involving distressed property,” said John Walsh, MDA DataQuick president.

“Despite the widening stability seen in the housing market in recent months, the outlook remains murky,” he said. “Whether prices will firm, or remain firm, will depend largely on three factors: The market’s response as the government reduces its housing stimulus, the economy’s ability to gain traction, and the decisions that lenders and borrowers will make in countless distress cases. The key question is how much more distressed inventory is coming, and when.”

Foreclosure resales – homes that had been foreclosed on in the prior 12 months – rose to 36.6 percent of all homes resold last month, marking the fourth consecutive month in which foreclosure resales edged higher. Foreclosure resales peaked at 52 percent of resales in February 2009, then gradually fell and, in the fall, leveled off near 32 percent before starting to rise modestly.

... Federally-insured, low-down-payment FHA loans, a popular choice among first-time buyers, made up 26.9 percent of Bay Area purchase loans last month. That was up from 23.3 percent a year ago and 1.4 percent two years ago.

Last month absentee buyers – mostly investors – purchased 19.4 percent of all Bay Area homes sold, the same as in January and up from 18.4 percent a year ago. The monthly absentee buyer average over the past decade is 13.0 percent. Buyers who appeared to have paid all cash – meaning there was no corresponding purchase loan found in the public record – accounted for a record 27.1 percent of sales in February, up from 25.7 percent in January and 24.4 percent a year ago.
This is definitely a market "off kilter". Almost 27% of the buyers used FHA insured loans, and another 27% paid cash (mostly investors). This is a long way from normal ...