Orange County home prices remained elevated in January, but fewer people were buying at those higher costs, figures released Wednesday show.
The median price of an Orange County home – or price at the midpoint of all sales – was $550,000 in January, down from December and November levels, but still up 19.6 percent from January 2013, according to housing tracker DataQuick Information Systems of La Jolla.
It was the the highest median price for a January since 2007 and the third highest January median in records dating back to 1988.
Home sales, on the other hand, were on the wane. DataQuick reported that 2,205 houses, condos and newly built residences traded hands in January, down 9.3 percent from January 2013 to the lowest level since February 2012.
Orange County home sales have been on the decline since October, reflecting buyer resistance to higher home prices and slightly higher mortgage interest rates.
Sales drops reflect buyer activity for existing homes, while new home sales continue to climb. Existing house and condo sales, for example, fell 17 percent year-over-year for January, while sales of newly built homes doubled.
Southland Home Sales Drop in January; Price Picture Mixed
February 12, 2014
La Jolla, CA—Southern California logged its lowest January home sales in three years as buyers continued to wrestle with a tight inventory of homes for sale, a fussy mortgage market and the highest prices in years. The median price paid for a home dipped from December – a normal seasonal decline – but remained 18 percent higher than January last year, a real estate information service reported.
A total of 14,471 new and resale houses and condos sold in Los Angeles, Riverside, San Diego, Ventura, San Bernardino and Orange counties last month. That was down 21.4 percent from 18,415 in December, and down 9.9 percent from 16,058 sales in January 2013, according to San Diego-based DataQuick.
A significant drop in sales between December and January is to be expected because many buyers drop out of the market during the holidays and mid-winter. That means fewer transactions close during January and February. On average, sales have declined 27.6 percent between December and January since 1988, when DataQuick’s statistics begin.
Last month’s Southland sales were 17.3 percent below the average number of sales – 17,493 – in the month of January since 1988. Sales haven’t been above average for any particular month in more than seven years. January sales have ranged from a low of 9,983 in January 2008 to a high of 26,083 in January 2004.
“The economy is growing, but Southland home sales have fallen on a year-over-year basis for four consecutive months now and remain well below average. Why? We’re still putting a lot of the blame on the low inventory. But mortgage availability, the rise in interest rates and higher home prices matter, too,” said John Walsh, DataQuick president.
The median price paid for all new and resale houses and condos sold in the six-county region last month was $380,000, down 3.8 percent from $395,000 in December and up 18.4 percent from $321,000 in January 2013. Because of seasonal changes it is typical for the median to decline between December and January, with that drop averaging 2.9 percent since 1988. Last month’s median was the lowest since it was $368,000 in May last year.
The Southland’s median price held at or near $385,000 between last June and November, then rose to $395,000 in December, which was the peak for 2013 and the highest for any month since February 2008, when it was $408,000.
The median sale price has risen on a year-over-year basis for 22 consecutive months. Those gains have been double-digit – between 10.8 percent and 28.3 percent – over the past 18 months. The January median stood 24.8 percent below the peak $505,000 median in spring/summer 2007.