Distressed Properties Slow Southern California's Recovery

December 16, 2009

As San Diego County’s housing market slowly climbs back to normal, Southern California as a whole still suffers from a high level of distressed properties, MDA DataQuick reported yesterday. “This market is still really lopsided,” DataQuick President John Walsh said in a statement. “Foreclosures and short sales (homes sold for less their mortgage balance) are huge factors. There’s still not a lot of discretionary buying and selling outside the more affordable markets. Anybody who can sit tight is doing just that.” While the six-county region’s overall median price was unchanged last month at $285,000 from year-ago levels, prices in San Diego, Orange and Ventura counties were in positive territory. Foreclosure-plagued San Bernardino and Riverside counties were down 13.6 percent and 9.1 percent respectively. Los Angeles was also in negative territory, off 3.2 percent. The November median for the region was up $5,000 from October.

As reported yesterday, San Diego County’s year-over-year price increase in November was the highest in four years, up $20,000, or 6.6 percent, to $325,000. The last time the percentage change was higher was in October 2007, one month before the median reached a record $517,500. It then fell to a low of $280,000 this past February before starting to rise to its present level. San Diego’s median has remained unchanged for four months. DataQuick said sales throughout the region are being propelled by unusual conditions, historically low interest rates, federal tax credits and investor interest, especially in lost-cost homes in foreclosure or distress. Sales of newly built homes and condominium conversions were up 25.5 percent to 2,039 from year-ago levels and were the highest of the year. San Diego’s 374 new-home sales were the highest since January 2008, a reflection of the county’s unique geographical and political makeup, no room to grow, tough environmental and regulatory rules and an economy, while ailing, that can depend on the military to provide a foundation lacking elsewhere, said Louis A. Galuppo, director of residential real estate at the University of San Diego’s Burnham-Moores Center for Real Estate.

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