Area home sales buck trend, up 7.3percentOther regions saw drops in February; ‘People want to livehere, broker explains12:42 PM, Mar. 25, 2011 |Written byMIKE PERRAULTThe Desert SunHome sales rose 7.3 percent in February across the Coachella Valley comparedto the same month a year ago, bucking a downward trend in Southern Californiaand the nation.The latest monthly home-sales tally also rose considerably from January, LaJolla-based DataQuick Information Systems reported.The 848 existing homes, condos and newly built homes that sold last month inthe valley was up from 727 in January, DataQuick reported.Brisk sales of previously occupied condos — a nearly 31 percent hike in year-over-year sales — helped boost the valleys real estate market, analysts and realestate professionals said.The Coachella Valleys home sales increase last month compared to an 11.2percent drop for all of Riverside County and a 6.4 percent drop across SouthernCalifornia.
Nationwide, sales of existing homes fell 9.6 percent in February compared to thesame month a year ago, the lowest level since November, the NationalAssociation of Realtors reported.The latest monthly home-sales figures illustrate how tough it is to compare thevalleys real estate market with the rest of Southern California or even other partsof Riverside County, said Jim Franklin, president of the Palm Springs RegionalAssociation of Realtors.“Were unique here in the Palm Springs-Coachella Valley,” said Franklin, a brokerassociate with Prudential California Realty. “People want to live here; its not likethey have to live here. So our market holds up pretty steady.”The valleys median price — half sold for more, half for less — was $200,000 inFebruary, the same as February 2010, DataQuick reported. That was up from$181,250 in January.Southern Californias median price was $275,000 in February, DataQuickreported. Positive factorsAnalysts with DataQuick and the California Association of Realtors said thereappears to be enough potential demand that the pace of home sales is expectedto increase over the next several months.Low prices, low mortgage rates, available credit, signs of job growth andimproving consumer confidence are among factors that could help boost homesales this spring, said John Walsh, DataQuick president.“Theres pent-up demand out there,” Walsh said. “Lots of people have beenwaiting for the right time to buy.”The Coachella Valley is getting into its prime season, with May typically one ofthe busiest months, Franklin said.
“At the end of the season, people start buying,” he said. “I think if people dontbuy this year, theyre going to come back and say, ‘Boy, I should have boughtthis.”Franklin said condos are selling well because many out-of- town owners perceivethem as easy to care for and theyre priced well at a time when the inventory oflower priced single-family homes is waning in some valley cities.Sales of newly built homes continued to struggle in the valley, in part becausebuilders are faced with steep competition from foreclosed and other distressedproperties.The figure of 30 newly built homes that sold in the valley during February wasdown 48 percent drop from February 2010, DataQuick reported. In January, 23new homes sold, a 39 percent drop from a year ago. Foreclosure factorLeslie Appleton-Young, chief economist for the California Association of Realtors,said a big decline in the median price statewide in January could primarily beattributed to the brief moratorium that some banks placed on foreclosures lastfall.As the foreclosures resumed, Appleton-Young said more distressed propertiescame onto the market, which led to an uptick in sales of lower-priced homes inJanuary. Its a trend likely to continue as lenders expedite the disposition of thoseproperties, Appleton- Young said.DataQuick analysts observed that foreclosure resales made up 37.1 percent ofall existing home sales in February across Southern California, which was upfrom 36.8 percent in January but down from 42.4 percent a year ago.Short sales — transactions in which properties are sold for less that what is owed— made up about 19.8 percent of all home resales in Southern California inFebruary, DataQuick reported.
CDAR officials have joined the California Association of Realtors to urge banks,government officials and others with a stake in the housing market to make shortsales easier, faster and more efficient.Some homebuyers have been frustrated having to wait as many as three monthsfor banks to respond do short sale offers.Greg Berkemer, CDAR executive director, said “we know our market isrecovering,” even if fluctuations in sales and prices is uneven or choppy frommonth to month.