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Stabilized market may be sign to sell

Real estate: Realtors note 3.6 percent increase in condo sales from 2009

Posted: February 15, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: February 15, 2011 1:55 a.m.

Mortgage rates and home prices both are creeping up, which may signal the road to recovery in the real estate market is beginning. Sales and home values for Santa Clarita are stronger than numbers in many surrounding communities.

Editor’s note: Part 2 of a series analyzing the housing market in the Santa Clarita Valley. Today’s installment looks at local trends in the housing market and experts’ advice for those contemplating selling their homes.

By the end of 2010, the loss in home values began slowing and some markets began to show modest increases in home prices.

Home sales in Southern California shot up 20.5 percent in December 2010 compared to November 2010, according to MDA DataQuick, an independent provider of real estate information since 1978.

According to the city of Santa Clarita’s economic indicator report, single-family medium-home values increased 6 percent to $415,000 in November 2010 compared to $390,000 in October. Sales were up 3 percent from October to November.

The Southland Regional Association of Realtors, Santa Clarita Division, reported year-over-year home values marked the lowest decrease since the recession began, and for the first time, prices are no longer in free fall.

The Realtors’ association reported that escrow closed on 2,947 properties in the valley for 2010, generating $1.1 billion in single-family home and condominium sales for the local economy.

Locally, Santa Clarita Valley sales on condos were up 3.6 percent from 2009, according to the association. Figures from the city of Santa Clarita show a 14 percent increase between November 2009 and November 2010.

The city also reports that condo sales rose 11 percent in November over October 2010 sales.

Overall, sales and home values for Santa Clarita are stronger than numbers coming out of the San Fernando Valley, which includes a wider range of economic markets.

The numbers for 2010, however, were still weaker than 2009, during the height of the recession.

But year-end and 2011 numbers are showing progress, experts agree.

Only 20.2 percent of the homes in the Los Angeles market have negative equity, according to

While that number is high, L.A. ranks 20th in negative equity on a list of 25 major metropolitan markets, according to the online real estate website that estimates home values based on sales in neighborhoods across the nation.

Zillow shows negative equity rates for Phoenix, Orlando, Atlanta and Riverside are all higher than 50 percent, probably meaning there are signs of recovery in the Southern California market.

Leveled prices in Santa Clarita
Beside the economywide impact of foreclosures and “underwater” mortgages, a vigorous home-sales market has a positive effect on the economy.

New home sales translate into improved sales at home improvement and home-decorating businesses. In addition, new home sales usually mean more property tax revenues for city and county governments.

Santa Clarita expects nearly $11.3 million in property tax revenue in fiscal year 2010-11, hitting pre-recessionary levels of $11.2 million collected during the 2006-07 fiscal year.

“We believe that property tax amounts have stabilized,” said Ken Striplin, assistant city manager for Santa Clarita.
Local Realtors say the city is highly desirable. They say it has a great Sheriff’s Station, most of the area has a master plan, the city has good proximity to employment centers, its employment figures are improving, the quality of life is high and housing is affordable.

“There’s a lot of pride of ownership in this town,” said Mike Bjorkman, broker and partner of RE/MAX of Valencia. “A lot of people fight to protect it and keep it that way.”

“Santa Clarita is more appealing in this market, pricewise, for buyers,” said Sal Aranda, president of the Southland Regional Association of Realtors’s Santa Clarita Valley Division, and president and CEO of U.S. Eco-Green Real Estate of Valencia.

“It’s guarded by all the mountains we have, making a private enclave and family-oriented community,” Aranda said.

The California housing market reportedly was the first to falter before much of the nation even recognized a recession in the making. But it now may be the first to recover as home prices throughout the state have been gradually rising.

“So far what we’re seeing is that we’ve leveled off,” said Pam Ingram of RE/MAX of Santa Clarita. “Prices are not going down a lot, and we’re no longer seeing substantial decreases in value.”

Time to sell?
One major question facing Realtors remains unanswered: When will the scores of homes in foreclosure limbo suddenly be released on the market?

If banks suddenly decide to unload all their distressed properties, the flood of cheap housing could sink sales prices, and therefore property values.

Experts advise prospective sellers not to wait for the market to recover before selling, because recovery could take years.

Foreclosed homes account for one-third of the Southern California market, according to DataQuick.

Whether selling your home is a thought in the back of your mind or a necessity, it’s best to put your home on the market now before the backlog of houses in various stages of foreclosure creates excess inventory, experts say.

If a seller waits too long, competing inventory may make it more difficult to sell a house at the desired price or fair market value.

On Wednesday: Experts’ advice for buyers and “the new normal” in the SCV housing market.


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