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Erika Kauzlarich-Bird: Calif. home prices highest in 4 years

Posted: October 25, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: October 25, 2012 2:00 a.m.

The numbers differ a little, yet it’s still true that Santa Clarita is pretty much tracking along with statewide figures when it comes to the ongoing rebound in home resale prices.

The median price of homes sold throughout California hit its highest level in four years during September. The statewide median price of an existing, single-family detached home hit $345,000 last month, up 19.5 percent from $288,700 in September 2011.

It was the seventh consecutive month of both month-to-month and year-to-year price increases. September’s statewide median price also was the highest since August 2008, when the median price was $352,730 while the year-to-year increase was the largest since May 2010.

Local prices have fluctuated up and down a bit, yet the clear trend has been up. The $370,000 median price of single-family homes sold throughout the Santa Clarita Valley during September was 2.8 percent higher than a year ago.

Local prices bottomed out in November at $340,000 and have been trending higher ever since, yet still not quite breaking the $400,000 benchmark with the $378,000 reported in March coming the closest.

Local prices of condominiums were up 19.9 percent from their low point of $170,000 set this July. September’s condo median price of $203,900 was up 4.6 percent from a year ago and the first time this year that the condo median broke the $200,000 threshold.

Prices and local sales would have been higher if only there were more properties listed for sale. True, more listings might take pressure off prices, yet demand is so excellent that local Realtors simply do not have enough to sell, especially in lower price ranges, and well-priced properties typically draw multiple offers, pushing the final sale price well above the list price.

Today’s limited inventory of homes listed for sale is a statewide problem, especially in entry-level price ranges. The lack of listings have slowed home sales while yielding more closed escrows in the upper price ranges, partly contributing to the rise in the median resale price.

“For the state, at 3.7 months of supply, unsold inventory is still less than half what it would be in a normal market,” said Leslie Appleton-Young CAR vice president and chief economist.

“As a result of the constrained supply at the moderate and lower end of the market, sales of homes priced under $200,000 dropped nearly 28 percent, and homes priced $200,000 to $300,000 fell more than 15 percent in September,” she said.

By contrast, in the upper price ranges, where inventory isn’t as much of an issue, sales of homes priced $400,000 to $500,000 rose more than 14 percent, and those priced above $500,000 increased more than 15 percent.

Sales of homes along the more costly coast continue to pick up momentum while a lack of inventory slows transactions, especially in the Inland Empire and the Central Valley, which have seen double-digit drops in sales compared to a year ago.

Meanwhile, home sales in San Diego and most Bay Area counties are coming in higher due to economies that appear to be growing faster than the rest of the state.

Closed escrows of existing, single-family detached homes throughout California in September were down 5.2 percent from this August and off 1.2 percent from September 2011.

Interest rates on home loans dipped in September after rising slightly in August. Thirty-year fixed rate loans averaged 3.47 percent during September 2012, down from 3.60 percent in August, and down from 4.11 percent in September 2011, according to Freddie Mac.

There’s still much uncertainty clouding the statewide and local housing markets, yet there’s also much progress to be pleased about, especially considering the depth of the crash. Here’s hoping for a gift of many more listings as the holidays approach.

Erika Kauzlarich-Bird is president of the Santa Clarita Valley Division of the Southland Regional Association of Realtors. David Walker, of Walker Associates, co-authors articles for SRAR. The column represents SRAR’s views and not necessarily those of The Signal. The column contains general information about the real estate market and is not intended to replace advice from your Realtor or other realty related professionals.



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