Southern California home sales fell to a six-year low for December, and the median price paid for a home jumped to the highest level in nearly six years, according to a report from DataQuick.
The company says home sales fell as investor activity eased again and as buyers struggled with a tight inventory of homes for sale – or ‘pitifully low inventory,’ as John Walsh, president of DataQuick, puts it.
The median home price jumped as the result of demand outstripping supply, declining distress sales and a slight increase in the share of sales in mid- to high-end areas, according to the report.
A total of 18,415 new and resale houses and condos sold in Los Angeles, Riverside, San Diego, Ventura, San Bernardino and Orange counties last month – which is up 6.5% from 17,283 sales in November and down 9.2% from 20,274 sales in December 2012.
DataQuick says December's sales gain from November is normal for the season, though it was weaker than usual, and on average, sales have increased 12.4% between November and December since 1988, when DataQuick's statistics began.
Last month's sales were 24.1% below the average number of sales (24,254) in the month of December; Southland (the Greater Los Angeles Area) sales haven't been above average for any particular month in more than seven years, DataQuick reports.
The median price paid for all new and resale houses and condos sold in the six-county region last month rose to $395,000 – the peak for 2013 and the highest for any month since the median was $408,000 in February 2008, according to DataQuick. Last month's median was up 2.6% from $385,000 in November and up 22.3% from $323,000 in December 2012. Until last month, the median had more or less moved sideways – ranging from $382,000 to $385,000 – since last June.
According to the company, it appears most of last month's 22.3% year-over-year increase in the Southland median sale price reflects rising home prices, while a small portion reflects a change in market mix. This mix change consists of a significant increase in mid- to high-end sales over the last year and a big decline in sales of lower-cost distressed properties.
Home sales in many middle and up-market areas continued to post year-over-year gains, while more affordable markets generally saw activity drop, according to the data.
Foreclosure resales – homes foreclosed on in the prior 12 months – accounted for 5.8% of the Southland resale market in December. Short sales made up an estimated 13.2% of Southland resales.
Buyers paying cash in December accounted for 27.7% of home sales, down from 28% the month before and down from 35.8% a year earlier. Cash buyers paid a median of $351,500 last month – up 1.0% month-to-month and up 29.9% from a year earlier.
In December, 12.9% of Southland home purchase loans were adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) – double the ARM rate of a year earlier.
Jumbo loans, mortgages above the old conforming limit of $417,000, accounted for 28.4% of last month's Southland purchase lending – up from 27.9% the prior month and up from 22.8% a year earlier.
Government-insured Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loans accounted for 19.6% of all purchase mortgages last month – down from 20.3% the month before and down from 23.1% a year earlier.