Southland home sales post annual gain -- prices drop again

August 18, 2008

La Jolla, CA---The number of Southern California homes sold last month edged up to its highest level in more than a year as bargain hunters swept up foreclosure properties in affordable neighborhoods, a real estate information service reported.

A total of 20,329 new and resale houses and condos sold in Los Angeles, Riverside, San Diego, Ventura, San Bernardino and Orange counties last month. That was up 16.7 percent from 17,424 the previous month and up 13.8 percent from 17,867 for July a year ago, according to San Diego-based MDA DataQuick.

Last month's sales count was the highest since 21,856 homes were sold in March 2007, though it still fell 23 percent short of the average July sales total since 1988, when MDA DataQuick's statistics begin. From last September through June, sales for each month were at an all-time low for that particular calendar month, with the exception of April which was the next lowest. Last month's sales total was the first since September 2005 to rise above the year-ago level.

"What we're looking at is a fire sale of properties in newer affordable neighborhoods that were bought or refinanced near the price peak with lousy mortgages. What we're still not seeing is this level of distress spreading to more expensive or established neighborhoods," said John Walsh, MDA DataQuick president.

The median price paid for a Southland home was $348,000 last month, down 2.0 percent from $355,000 in June and down 31.1 percent from $505,000 for July 2007. That peak of $505,000 was reached in March, April, May and July of last year.

The median has fallen because of depreciation, especially in inland markets, and because of the steep drop off in home financing in the so-called jumbo category, which until recently was defined as loans above $417,000.

Before the credit crunch hit in August 2007, nearly 40 percent of Southland sales were financed with jumbo loans. Jumbos last month accounted for 15.8 percent of Southland sales.

Foreclosure resales continue to be a dominant factor in today's Southern California market, accounting for 43.6 percent of all resales. That was up from a revised 41.8 percent in June, and up from 7.9 percent in July 2007. Foreclosure resales -- where a foreclosure had occurred at some point in the prior 12 months -- ranged from 22.2 percent of all resales in Orange County last month to 64.4 percent in Riverside County.

MDA DataQuick, a subsidiary of Vancouver-based MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates, monitors real estate activity nationwide and provides information to consumers, educational institutions, public agencies, lending institutions, title companies and industry analysts.

The typical monthly mortgage payment that Southland buyers committed themselves to paying was $1,632 last month, down from a $1,671 the previous month, and down from $2,447 a year ago. Adjusted for inflation, the current payment is at its lowest level five years. It's 36.9 percent below its year- ago level and 24.2 percent lower than the spring of 1989, the peak of the prior real estate cycle.

Indicators of market distress continue to move in different directions. Foreclosure activity is at record levels, financing with adjustable-rate mortgages is near the all-time low as is financing with multiple mortgages. Down payment sizes and flipping rates are stable, non-owner occupied buying activity appears flat but may be emerging, MDA DataQuick reported.

Sales Volume Median Price
All homes        Jul-07    Jul-08    %Chng      Jul-07      Jul-08     %Chng
Los Angeles        6,809     6,592    -3.2%   $547,500   $400,000   -26.90%
Orange             2,391     2,799    17.1%   $640,000   $461,000   -28.00%
Riverside          2,769     4,116    48.6%   $399,000   $260,000   -34.80%
San Bernardino     2,008     2,521    25.5%   $355,000   $230,000   -35.20%
San Diego          3,106     3,431    10.5%   $489,000   $364,000   -25.60%
Ventura              784       870    11.0%   $582,500   $420,000   -27.90%
SoCal            17,867    20,329    13.8%   $505,000   $348,000   -31.10%

Source: Media calls: Andrew LePage (916) 456-7157 or John Karevoll (909) 867-9534

Copyright 2007 DataQuick Information Systems. All rights reserved.