State home sales fall 15.5 percent

first_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORE‘Mame,’ ‘Hello, Dolly!’ composer Jerry Herman dies at 88160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! With homes sales continuing to fall from year ago levels across California in February, lenders responded by increasing scrutiny of loan applications and buyers turned their back on adjustable mortgages in surprising numbers, said a trifecta of reports released Thursday. Last month sales of previously owned single family homes fell 15.5 percent across the state, said the California Association of Realtors. If this pace continued for all of this year, 513,745 properties would change hands, down from 608,160 a year ago, the association said. It’s no surprise, said association President Vince Malta. “It’s a Goldilocks market, not too hot and not too cold. I think sellers are getting their expectations in line,” Malta said. Prices continued moving up, though, with the statewide median gaining an annual 13.7 percent to $535,470 a year ago. It slipped 2.9 percent from January. But prices have been flat since last summer and sales have consistently fell under year-ago levels since the start of the third quarter. Association vice president and chief economist Leslie Appleton-Young said that the long-anticipated weakening of appreciation seems to have set in. She expects appreciation to slow to the 10 percent range this year from the 13 to 17 percent range of a year ago. One reason is that inventory has been building and is now at a 6.7 month supply at the current sales pace. Malta said inventory has not been this high since November of 1997. This is a break for buyers. “Rising inventory levels (will) mitigate some of the upward pressure on home prices. The higher-priced coastal areas will see price gains in the mid-single digits while the inland areas will see increases in excess of 10 percent, Appleton-Young said. The association’s report showed that: In Los Angeles County, sales fell 17.9 percent from a year ago and the median price increased 19.4 percent to $565,600. On a monthly basis sales dipped 5.8 percent and the median price rose 0.9 percent. In Ventura County, the median price increased 8.2 percent to $684,070 from a year ago and inched up 0.3 percent from January. Sales fell an annual 16.9 percent and 1 percent monthly. The High Desert, which includes the Antelope Valley, continues to be the most affordable market in the state. The median price there is $328,690, up an annual 27.7 percent for the biggest increase in the sate. Sales fell an annual 3.2 percent. John Karevoll, a analyst at DataQuick Information Systems, said that the current market profile is not that new of a reality. “This is reality,” he said. “It was the year-ago market that was unreal. I think we need not have such short memories. Today we’re closer to a normal market than a year ago.” But one surprise is the decrease in adjustable rate mortgage activity. Karevoll released a report on Thursday showing that in February 51.9 percent buyers financed their purchases with an ARM, down from 63.7 percent in January, 68.7 percent in December and 70.9 percent in November. “That’s one of the numbers that doesn’t generally move very much, it moves in little baby steps. To move down like it did over the course of the last three months represents a steep decline,” Karevoll said. The use of adjustables peaked May last year at 73.7 percent. The peak in the prior cycle was 66.1 percent in September 1988. This decline is attributed more caution among buyers and lenders in a market that is seeing slowing increases in home values. To that end, lenders are being more cautious, said the Web site HomeSmartReports.com. The San Juan Capistrano-based company said that fewer home loan applications are being approved with a minimum of underwriting fuss and the market continues moving toward one with narrower margins of error. Gregory J. Wilcox, (818) 713-3743 [email protected]last_img

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