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Home sales continue upward

Posted: December 21, 2011 1:30 a.m.
Updated: December 21, 2011 1:30 a.m.

Industry numbers released this week reflect an increase in sales of both existing and newly constructed homes.

While median home prices continue to drop in ongoing market adjustments, sales of existing single-family homes in the Santa Clarita Valley continue to increase, jumping 34 percent over the prior year.

The Southland Regional Association of Realtors reported Monday that for five out of the last six months, sales of existing single-family homes in the SCV area increased during November compared with the prior year.

A total of 198 homes changed owners last month, up 33.8 percent over 12 months ago, and 12.5 percent better than this October, according to SRAR.

Reversing trends from early in the year when home sales were competing against tax credits granted homebuyers in 2010, this was the second consecutive month that home sales increased over the prior year and the fifth out of the last six months.

The same pattern is being seen in many other communities throughout California, the Realtors association reported, but noted the jump in the SCV is more pronounced because of the size of the increase.

Less inventory

Home sales are up 100 percent from the record low for this cycle, which was set in January 2008.

Even though condominium sales are 110 percent better than the record low set at the same time, condo sales are down 20.7 percent when compared with a year ago.

The drop in condo sales may reflect an increasing ability for homebuyers to get back into the single-family home market after the over-inflated prices reached in the mid 2000s, or the fact that the majority of SCV condominium complexes fell off the certification list this year for FHA-backed loans.

The number of listings for single-family homes and condos combined in November was 1,039 active listings;,723 single-family homes and only 316 condominiums.

The total number of listings was down 20 percent from a year ago, despite sales of existing listings soaring, SRAR reported. The change represents a four-month supply at the current pace of sales, which is low given the growing demand.

“Families that want to own a home are pursuing remarkable opportunities,” said Sal Aranda, president of the SRAR’s SCV Division.  “A limited inventory is another constraint on the market, yet the November statistics show that an increasing number of buyers are getting the message.”

Affordable prices, Santa Clarita’s relatively strong local economy and its overall desirability as a place to live are helping to stabilize the housing market, said Jim Link, CEO for SRAR.

“With a median price of $340,000, I’m not surprised that local sales are on the upswing,” Link said. “Despite the many challenges facing the housing market, the strong pace of activity in Santa Clarita is very encouraging.”

There were 320 open escrows at the end of November, up 8.8 percent compared with  a year ago.

The trend in pending and increased sales during November suggest November’s heavier than usual activity will continue through December, a SRAR spokesperson said.

What makes the trend notable is that this is the time of year when sales typically taper off due to the holidays.

Sale of existing homes isn’t the only trend being noted in the market.

New construction

The Building Industry Association reported Tuesday that the number of new homes in Southern California rebounded slightly, as well.

The number of newly constructed homes that closed escrow in October, 244 homes in Los Angeles County, was up slightly from September, the BIA reported.

Like sales of existing homes, however, median prices were at a two-year low.

The countywide median price for a new home dropped 4.8 percent from the previous month to $359,500, which was down 20.4 percent from the same month a year ago.

Median prices in Ventura County, however, jumped 26 percent from the previous month to an even $400,000. That figure was also up 14 percent from the previous year, reported BIA.

Historically low mortgage interest rates make today a good time to buy a new home in the region, said Holly Schroeder, CEO of the Los Angeles/Ventura chapter of BIA.

“Today’s new homes are designed for today’s lifestyles and are far more energy efficient than homes built just a few years ago,” Schroeder said. “Families looking for the latest in trends and technological advances should visit new-home communities and see what builders have to offer.”


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