LA County home sales are falling, but condo deals still rise

Single-family home purchases fell 22% in December; condominiums purchases jumped 22%


Los Angeles County condo sales keep rising even as the number of single-family home purchases have slowed from their surge in late summer and fall.

There were 1,163 signed condo contracts in the county in December, a 28 percent year-over-year jump, according to a Douglas Elliman Miller Samuel monthly report.

But single-family homes dominate L.A., and those sales fell 22 percent year-over-year, with 3,043 homes going into contract last month.

Condo sales have stayed strong since the housing market rebounded in July following a pandemic-induced sales drop in spring. The condo market’s steady uptick over the last several months also goes against warnings from some L.A. residential brokers, who warned of impending peril.

The rise in condo sales is partly due to buyers educating themselves about Covid and how to manage the risk of infection in vertical living, said real estate appraiser Jonathan Miller, who authors the monthly report.

Another factor is that in L.A., condos are more affordable than single-family homes. Of the total signed condo contracts last month, 513 — about 44 percent — were for purchases of less than $300,000. Only 14 of the deals put into escrow were for condos of $1 million or more.

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Meanwhile, the median single-family home sales price countywide was about $700,000, according to a separate report.

Demand continues for single-family homes at the upper end of the market: 57 deals were inked in December for properties above $2 million. That compares to the 50 that sold in December 2019, when the luxury market was riding high.

But homeowners are holding onto their properties because of county and state quarantine orders. The total number of new single-family home listings fell 48 percent in December, to 1,320.

Across the nation, as in L.A., “there has been a chronic lack of inventory,” Miller said during a recent interview with The Real Deal editor-in-chief Stuart Elliott.

There are exceptions, however. In L.A., inventory at the high-end of the market has actually increased. But those who cannot pay over $2 million to buy a house have fewer options. For example, new home listings between $300,000 and $399,000 dropped 73 percent year-over-year.

“There are a lot of theories” to explain why inventory is so low, said Miller, of Miller Samuel. For new construction homes, builders have long been unable to keep pace with demand. But for existing homes, the pandemic again comes into play, he said. Homeowners have a “fear of putting a home on the market, and having it visited by strangers amid Covid.”

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