SoCal housing market shows signs of life, with a caveat: report

April home sales jumped from the month prior, but are still at lowest levels since 2014
By Gregory Cornfield | May 29, 2019 05:00PM

CoreLogic's Andrew LePage and Orange County (Credit: Wikipedia)

CoreLogic’s Andrew LePage and Orange County (Credit: Wikipedia)

Lower mortgage rates and a glut of inventory boosted the Southern California residential market in April, as home sales jumped nearly 12 percent from the month before.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that compared to previous years, 2019 is still proving to be the slowest for home sales since 2014, according to newly released data by CoreLogic.

A total of 20,074 new and existing houses and condominiums sold last month in the six counties of Los Angeles, Riverside, San Diego, Ventura, San Bernardino and Orange. That compares to March, when the total was just under 18,000.

The big monthly gain is worth noting because the average change in sales from March to April had been just 2.2 percent since 1988, according to CoreLogic data. Despite the improvement, April home sales were still 14.5 percent below the long-term monthly average. They were also slightly below April 2018 sales numbers.

“April’s smaller annual sales decrease, coupled with an above-average month-to-month increase in sales, suggests declining mortgage rates and increased inventory this spring helped attract buyers,” said Andrew LePage, an analyst with CoreLogic. “This might include people who backed out of a tighter, more frenzied market last year, when rising prices and mortgage rates priced out some and made others worry about buying near a peak.”

The median price paid for all Southern California homes that were sold in April was $527,500. That was up 2.4 percent from $515,000 in March, and 1.4 percent from $520,000 in April 2018.

Sales in April of newly-built homes were 50-percent below the long-term average, while resales were closer to their historical average, but still 10 percent below long-term averages. It has been a difficult year for homebuilding nationwide and in Southern California, which was down 18 percent in the first quarter.

“The slowdown in price growth and sales over the past year suggests that despite a healthy economy, the cost of homeownership has outpaced incomes for many,” LePage said. “Most buyers don’t have the option of turning to the sort of high-risk mortgages many used to stretch beyond their financial means during the last housing boom, keeping upward pressure on prices.”