Home sales slow as frenzy cools

Home sales flagged last month in Orange County and throughout Southern California in the face of higher home prices, slightly higher interest rates and fewer investors, new housing figures show.

Still, those higher home prices had a beneficial effect. A separate report shows that 67,500 fewer Orange County homes were under water by the end of September.

Article Tab: image1-Home sales slow as frenzy cools

Orange County home sellers closed 2,632 transactions in November, down 8.6 percent from the year before, DataQuick Information Systems reported Monday. That’s 12 percent slower than in October, compared with an average October-to-November drop of 8 percent.



The median home price – or price at the midpoint of all sales – was $560,000, up 24.4 percent from November 2012 levels. Last month’s median matched a post-recession high first hit in August.

The pattern was similar throughout the region: Overall Southern California home sales fell 10.4 percent, while the median price rose 19.9 percent, to $385,000.

Type Nov. Price 1 yr ch Nov. Sales 1 yr ch
Resale houses $610,000 16.2% 1,591 -13.6%
Resale condos $373,000 21.3% 668 -19.4%
All new homes $714,500 17.9% 373 78.5%
All homes $560,000 24.4% 2,632 -8.6%

Local housing professionals warned, however, that last month’s price gains were due in part to a switch to pricier home sales.

With fewer foreclosures and short sales, transactions less than $500,000 fell from 66 percent of all Orange County deals in November 2011 to 40 percent last month, DataQuick figures show.Meanwhile, the share of Orange County homes selling for $700,000 or more doubled in two years, from 16 percent to 32 percent of the market.

“It’s hard to find anything under $500,000 for a single-family detached home,” observed Donna Sullivan of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Capistrano Beach. High-priced homes are “pretty much all that’s available.”

Sales of older, existing homes fell, while sales of higher-priced new homes rocketed upward 78.5 percent in Orange County, to 373 units – the most new homes moved for any month since December 2007.

“The part of the market that’s really moving right now is the high end. The low end is unavailable,” said Long Beach broker Geoff McIntosh, treasurer of the California Association of Realtors.

Price appreciation, McIntosh said, ranges from 3 percent to 4 percent in some neighborhoods to 8 percent or 9 percent in others.

Market watchers noted that the November data reflects deals being signed in September and October, when a traditional seasonal slowdown was being affected by the Washington drama over the government shutdown.

“November sales were pretty underwhelming,” said DataQuick President John Walsh. “The exact cause is tough to pinpoint, but we see likely culprits: The inventory of homes for sale still falls short of demand. Also, any pullback in homebuying during the early-October fiasco in Washington, D.C., would have undermined November closings.”

Published: Dec. 16, 2013 Updated: Dec. 17, 2013 6:18 a.m.

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