Area home sales buck trend, up 7.3 percent
The Desert Sun
Home sales rose 7.3 percent in February across the Coachella Valley compared to the same month a year ago, bucking a downward trend in Southern California and the nation.
The latest monthly home-sales tally also rose considerably from January, La Jolla-based DataQuick Information Systems reported.
The 848 existing homes, condos and newly built homes that sold last month in the valley was up from 727 in January, DataQuick reported.
Brisk sales of previously occupied condos — a nearly 31 percent hike in year-over-year sales — helped boost the valley’s real estate market, analysts and real estate professionals said.
The Coachella Valley’s home sales increase last month compared to an 11.2 percent drop for all of Riverside County and a 6.4 percent drop across Southern California.
Nationwide, sales of existing homes fell 9.6 percent in February compared to the same month a year ago, the lowest level since November, the National Association of Realtors reported.
The latest monthly home-sales figures illustrate how tough it is to compare the valley’s real estate market with the rest of Southern California or even other parts of Riverside County, said Jim Franklin, president of the Palm Springs Regional Association of Realtors.
“We’re unique here in the Palm Springs-Coachella Valley,” said Franklin, a broker associate with Prudential California Realty. “People want to live here; it’s not like they have to live here. So our market holds up pretty steady.”
The valley’s median price — half sold for more, half for less — was $200,000 in February, the same as February 2010, DataQuick reported. That was up from $181,250 in January.
Southern California’s median price was $275,000 in February, DataQuick reported.
Analysts with DataQuick and the California Association of Realtors said there appears to be enough potential demand that the pace of home sales is expected to increase over the next several months.
Low prices, low mortgage rates, available credit, signs of job growth and improving consumer confidence are among factors that could help boost home sales this spring, said John Walsh, DataQuick president.
“There’s pent-up demand out there,” Walsh said. “Lots of people have been waiting for the right time to buy.”
The Coachella Valley is getting into its prime season, with May typically one of the busiest months, Franklin said.
“At the end of the season, people start buying,” he said. “I think if people don’t buy this year, they’re going to come back and say, ‘Boy, I should have bought this.’”
Franklin said condos are selling well because many out-of- town owners perceive them as easy to care for and they’re priced well at a time when the inventory of lower priced single-family homes is waning in some valley cities.
Sales of newly built homes continued to struggle in the valley, in part because builders are faced with steep competition from foreclosed and other distressed properties.
The figure of 30 newly built homes that sold in the valley during February was down 48 percent drop from February 2010, DataQuick reported. In January, 23 new homes sold, a 39 percent drop from a year ago.
Leslie Appleton-Young, chief economist for the California Association of Realtors, said a big decline in the median price statewide in January could primarily be attributed to the brief moratorium that some banks placed on foreclosures last fall.
As the foreclosures resumed, Appleton-Young said more distressed properties came onto the market, which led to an uptick in sales of lower-priced homes in January. It’s a trend likely to continue as lenders expedite the disposition of those properties, Appleton- Young said.
DataQuick analysts observed that foreclosure resales made up 37.1 percent of all existing home sales in February across Southern California, which was up from 36.8 percent in January but down from 42.4 percent a year ago.
Short sales — transactions in which properties are sold for less that what is owed — made up about 19.8 percent of all home resales in Southern California in February, DataQuick reported.
CDAR officials have joined the California Association of Realtors to urge banks, government officials and others with a stake in the housing market to make short sales easier, faster and more efficient.
Some homebuyers have been frustrated having to wait as many as three months for banks to respond do short sale offers.
Greg Berkemer, CDAR executive director, said “we know our market is recovering,” even if fluctuations in sales and prices is uneven or choppy from month to month.