Leslie Berkman from the PressEnterprise just wrote this article on the April 2009 / 2010 homes sales comparison. With fewer price-slashed foreclosed houses for sale in Inland Southern California, sales declined last month while prices rose compared to a year earlier.
In San Bernardino County, home sales fell more sharply than anywhere else in Southern California, tumbling more than 12 percent year-to-year to 2,744, according to a report released Tuesday by MDA DataQuick.
The sales decline in Riverside County was the second largest, falling almost 8 percent from April, 2009, to 4,117.
A corresponding 8.3 percent year-over-year increase in the median price of homes sold in April in both Inland counties — to $198,000 in Riverside County and $152,000 in San Bernardino County — was credited by DataQuick analyst Andrew LePage primarily to a dramatically smaller percentage of bank-owned houses sold.
In Riverside County last month, bank-repossessed houses represented about 45 percent of all existing home sales, sharply down from nearly 69 percent in April 2009.
In San Bernardino County, bank-owned houses made up nearly 53 percent of sales in April but that also was down from about 69 percent a year earlier.
The diminished volume of distressed sales was important to the price bump-up last month in Riverside and San Bernardino counties because it meant more homes were sold at higher prices in standard sales, LePage said.
In addition, he said, home prices were buoyed because there were fewer homes available for sale, so that in some communities first-time buyers and investors bid up prices with multiple offers.
Pete Nyiri, a Corona-based marketer of bank-owned properties, and other industry experts contend there is a pent-up inventory of homes with delinquent mortgages but that lenders are taking a long time to foreclose and very slowly releasing foreclosed houses for sale in order to prevent values from tanking again.
“The good piece of news is that house prices have stopped falling for over a year now,” said Richard Green, director of USC’s Lusk Center for Real Estate.
“Homeowners are no more upside down than they were a year ago and new loans for new home purchases are all solid,” Green said. “It makes lenders more confident that they can lend and consumers more confident about buying.”
Green said that “given how far home prices fell in the Inland Empire, unless the job picture worsens it is hard for me to imagine they will fall more. In many cases, on a cash flow basis, it is cheaper to own than to rent now.”
Some of the sales decline in April, DataQuick said, may have been caused by buyers delaying escrows to take advantage of new state tax credits for homes bought starting May 1. Also those who rushed to sign a sales contract before the April 30 deadline for a federal homebuyer tax credit would close their sales in May or June.
Leslie Appleton-Young, chief economist for the California Association of Realtors, said she wouldn’t be surprised to see a dip in home sales in the second half of the year after all government incentives are exhausted. But she predicted that affordability of houses will draw buyers back.
“The market’s still taking baby steps on a long road to recovery, trying to find its footing,” said MDA DataQuick President John Walsh in releasing Tuesday’s report. “It’s unclear which of today’s sales characteristics are part of a new reality, and which are still temporary turbulence.”
Beacon Economics economist Chris Thornberg said he expects that when government homebuyer incentives end and interest rates rise, home sales will suffer but the market will not collapse. “I think we are moving in the right direction,” Thornberg said. “But it will take time.”
Reach Leslie Berkman at 951-368-9423 or lberkman@PE.com