From the latimes.com:

Home sale prices in Southern California showed fresh strength in January, bouncing 8.6% from the same month one year earlier — a period when the market was inundated with steeply discounted bank-owned properties.

But compared with a particularly strong December, the median fell 6.1% to $271,500 in January, ending eight consecutive months of price appreciation or stability in the Southland, MDA DataQuick, a San Diego real estate research firm, said Tuesday.

The month-to-month decline was attributable in part to the higher percentage of cheaper Inland Empire homes that sold in January compared with December as buyers in pricier locales stopped searching during the holidays and investors and first-time buyers made up a larger share of shoppers.

“The [January] numbers reflect, for the most part, people who would be out shopping in the middle of the holidays anywhere from late November to early January,” DataQuick analyst Andrew LePage said. “So it doesn’t surprise me that the concentration shifts a little bit back toward investors and first-time buyers, who probably feel the most urgency to snag what they consider a deal. A lot of other potential buyers would have been focused on other things during the holidays.”

We know that when you hear that the median price went up, all it means is that more higher-end houses were selling.  The media makes it out that prices are rising, and that is not true.

(I spoke to the reporter Alejandro, but didn’t get off any pearls of wisdom.  Got one in here though, with the Financial Times – and I was quoted before I saw CR say the same thing.)

From the FT:

After spending most of the past year focusing on largely ineffective loan modification plans, BofA, Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase and other large banks said they were ramping up short sales as a means of dealing with the housing crisis.

“If 2009 was the year of the loan modification, 2010 will be the year of the short sale,” said Jim Klinge, a real-estate broker in San Diego, California.

Some of the largest mortgage servicers are scrambling to make the most of this shift. Wells Fargo is holding seminars to teach real-estate brokers how to conduct short sales. Citigroup created a unit to expedite short sales and recently announced a pilot programme that gives homeowners who turn in their deed to the bank – known as a deed-in-lieu transaction – at least $1,000 towards relocation expenses.

BofA has hired additional staff to handle the increased volume, which is running at about double the level of a year ago. “Short sales are growing faster than REOs [real estate owned transactions] and that’s a new development,” said Matt Vernon, a BofA executive recently named to a new position of overseeing short sales.


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