La Jolla, CA—Southern California home sales held at a three-year low last month amid a sluggish move-up market and record-low sales of newly built homes. The median sale price fell year-over-year by the largest amount in 20 months as buyer uncertainty, tight credit and lackluster hiring continued to restrain housing demand, a real estate information service reported.

A total of 18,394 new and resale houses and condos sold in Los Angeles, Riverside, San Diego, Ventura, San Bernardino and Orange counties in May. That was up insignificantly – 0.3 percent – from 18,344 in April, and down 17.4 percent from 22,270 in May 2010, according to San Diego-based DataQuick. May marked the 11th consecutive month in which sales fell year-over-year.  On average, sales between April and May have increased 5.7 percent since 1988, when DataQuick’s statistics begin.

The 1,152 newly built homes that sold across the Southland last month marked the lowest new-home total for the month of May since at least 1988.

Distressed property sales continued to account for more than half of the Southland resale market last month, with little change from April. Roughly one out of three homes resold was a foreclosure, while about one in five was a “short sale,” where the sale price fell short of what was owed on the property.

In the overall market, sales fell across all price categories last month compared with a year earlier. But in percentage terms sales in the lower and higher price ranges held up best: Transactions below $200,000 made up 30.6 percent of last month’s deals, up from 26.8 percent a year earlier. Sales of homes priced at $800,000 or more made up 7.5 percent of last month’s total sales, the same as a year ago.

However, sales between $300,000 and $800,000 – a range in which many move-up transactions occur – accounted for 38.9 percent of all deals, down from 44.4 percent a year earlier.

Last month 20.3 percent of total sales were for $500,000 or more, down a tad from a revised 21.2 percent in April and down from 22.3 percent a year earlier. The low point for $500,000-plus sales was in January 2009, when only 13.8 percent of sales were above that threshold. Over the past 10 years, a monthly average of 27.2 percent of homes sold for $500,000 or more.

However, an alternative method of tracking mid- to high-end activity suggests those neighborhoods now account for a fairly normal level of sales relative to overall regional activity. Southland zip codes in the top one-third of the housing market, based on historical prices, accounted for 37.4 percent of total sales last month, compared with a 10-year monthly average of 37.0 percent. Last month’s figure was up slightly from 37.3 percent in April and 37.0 percent a year ago. These higher-cost zips codes’ contribution to overall sales hit a low of 26.2 percent in January 2009.

The percentage of Southland homes that were “flipped” – bought and re-sold on the open market within a six-month period – dipped slightly last month to 3.1 percent of all sales. That was down from 3.3 percent in April and 3.4 percent a year ago. Flipping varied last month from as little as 1.6 percent of sales in Ventura County to as much as 3.5 percent in San Diego and Los Angeles counties.


Will the MSM mention last year’s tax credit? Let’s compare SD all-property-type MLS sales in May:

Year # of Sales Avg. $/sf

The sales last month were 3% lower than in May, 2009, and the average cost-per-sf increased 6%.

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