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Home sales, prices rise

Posted: February 23, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: February 23, 2012 1:55 a.m.
The Valencia home in North Pebble Ridge was sold by Realty Executives of Valencia in 2011. The Valencia home in North Pebble Ridge was sold by Realty Executives of Valencia in 2011.
The Valencia home in North Pebble Ridge was sold by Realty Executives of Valencia in 2011.

Sales of existing single-family homes and condominiums in the Santa Clarita Valley not only posted double-digit increases during January, but prices on single-family homes rose 4 percent from a year ago, reported the Southland Regional Association of Realtors, or SRAR, on Wednesday.

Not wanting to give rise to false hopes, Erika Kauzalrich-Bird, president of the Association’s Santa Clarita Valley Division, said the Santa Clarita Valley’s low inventory is what’s driving prices up at the moment, but it’s too early to call it a trend.

“We’re seeing multiple offers on properties now,” Kauzalrich-Bird said. “We just don’t have the supply of houses for sale.”

January home sales were up 47.5 percent, and condo sales rose 106.5 percent from their record lows for this cycle, both of which came in January 2008, SRAR reported.

Sales continued a months-long trend reflecting reports that the local housing market is on the mend. DataQuick also reported that statewide sales have increased for the past six months on a year-over-year basis.

Following a statewide trend, however, January home sales were down from December 2011. DataQuick reported statewide homes were down 22.5 percent from December and, locally, sales were down 33 percent from December 2011.

Local sales, however, exceeded sales from a year ago in January 2011 and showed surprising strength in December, with a 26-percent increase for the same month from the prior year.

Increase in sales

Realtors closed escrow on 146 home sales during January throughout the Santa Clarita Valley, an increase of 24.8 percent over a year ago, according to the SRAR. And the 64 condominiums that changed owners were 33.3 percent higher over a year ago as while.

Recovery in the San Fernando Valley real estate market, a much larger housing market, is still lagging behind Santa Clarita.

A total of 388 single-family homes and 145 condominiums changed owners in the San Fernando Valley during January — a decline of 22.2 percent and 24.9 percent, respectively, from 12 months ago.

“Multiple factors are making housing heal faster locally than other regions of the nation and California,” Kauzalrich-Bird said.

Santa Clarita is a fantastic place to live and raise a family, Kauzalrich-Bird said. And the city has worked hard to make conditions favorable for businesses. The environment has resulted in an ongoing arrival of companies and expansion of theatrical production companies, not the least being Disney.

“That means there are more opportunities locally for solid, well-paying jobs,” she said.

And pending escrows, a measure of future resale numbers, suggest Santa Clarita Valley’s upbeat sales activity will continue in the months ahead. Pending escrows were up 10.7 percent, SRAR reported.

One thing both valleys share in common is inventory. Both areas have too few properties for sale, experts said. The current inventory in the San Fernando Valley represents a four-month supply while the SCV’s inventory represents a four-and-a-half-month supply. Both are below the desired five-to-six-month supply that indicates a balanced market.

Prices rising

DataQuick reported the January median sales price paid for a home in California was down 4.1 percent from December.

The opposite was true in Santa Clarita.

The median price of the 146 homes sold in Santa Clarita last month was $360,000, up 4 percent from a year ago and 5.9 percent higher than the record low for this cycle, SRAR reported. The condo median of $184,500 was 27.4 percent below a year ago, and was the lowest median since June 2002.

Reversing a short-lived trend seen in 2011, the median home price of single-family homes in Santa Clarita is rising while the median price of condominiums is dropping.

Both single-family homes and condominiums median prices rose in the San Fernando Valley, suggesting northern Los Angeles County may be finally experiencing a turnaround.

Bank-owned homes

Banks took back more homes in January than in December, reported RealtyTrac Inc. in February. The trend is expected to continue as a result of the $25 billion settlement between the country’s largest mortgage lenders and 49 state attorneys general.

Both Kauzalrich-Bird and Jim Link, SRAR’s CEO, agree that the settlement may yield faster action by lenders and offer some assistance to limited numbers of owners who owe more than the current market value of their home.

Foreclosures and short sales — in which a home is sold for less than the outstanding loan — still represent too large a percentage of local activity, a reality likely to continue through much of 2012, Link said.

“There are plenty of prospective buyers and lots of pent-up demand for housing, but too small of an inventory,” Link said.

“To increase the inventory, local owners need to better understand the tradeoffs if they want to move to a better home.

Additionally, banks have been slow to release properties acquired through foreclosure and need to make further improvements in their response time on short sales.”

Prospective buyers and sellers need to pay more attention to local Santa Clarita housing statistics and less to statewide and national reports that too often do not reflect the local reality, said both Kauzalrich-Bird and Link.

“Get out of a negative mind set,” Kauzalrich-Bird said. “We don’t follow national statistics.”


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