REO Drives California Home Sale Increase

An estimated 36,215 new and existing homes and condos sold in California last month, a 23.9% month-on-month increase from February and 47.4% year-on-year increase from March 08, according to a report published Thursday by San Diego-based MDA DataQuick Information Systems. March marked the ninth consecutive month of year-over-year sales inclines. Sales prices continue to slip in the Golden State, however, with March posting a median sales price of $233,000 — 0.4% below February’s median and 37.7% below the year-ago median seen in March 08. DataQuick attributed the drop to the work of depreciation in concert with shifts in the types of homes sold toward foreclosure properties. Real estate-owned (REO) properties accounted for 57.4% of monthly sales in March, up from 35.5% in March ’08. California home buyers in March committed to an average mortgage payment of $958, 44% below the average payment entered in March ’08, 63.1% below the latest bubble’s June 2006 peak and the lowest average monthly payment, adjusted for inflation, reported in DataQuick’s statistics, which track information back to 1988. “Indicators of market distress continue to move in different directions,” say DataQuick researchers. “Foreclosure activity is nearing its 2008 peak, while financing with adjustable-rate mortgages is at an all-time low, as is financing with multiple mortgages.” A continued increase in Bay Area home sales and continued decrease in median sales price indicates stabilization forces at work, while a “significant” slowing of the pace of median sale price declines suggests the nine-county market might be near its bottom, DataQuick found. A total of 6,325 new and resale houses and condos sold in the Bay Area in March, at a median sales price of $290,000. “For now, the extent to which prices have fallen in the upscale markets is more difficult to gauge because many of those areas are essentially in hibernation, with scant sales,” said DataQuick president John Walsh in a press statement. March sales in the area average 9,025 with a high of 12,645 in March ’04, the information provider said. March ’09 marked the third-slowest March on record with DataQuick. “More than any other region, the Bay Area is waiting for so-called jumbo loans to come back on line,” adds Walsh. “Even with prices off their peaks, most home purchases in the upper half of the market still require a mortgage for more than $417,000, which are far more difficult to come by. We think there’s a good chance those larger loans will become more available during the second or third quarter.” Write to Diana Golobay at

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