Despite many promising factors leading into 2015, home sales in January fell sharply from December, a modest dip from a year earlier and the 14th month in the last 16 to post year-over-year declines. While a decline in sales is typical during the winter months, many experts were hopefully that the abnormally low mortgage rates would be enough to drive the market forward. Now many agents and brokers are left asking the question: If low mortgage rates aren’t enough to sell homes, what is?
On average, Southern California sales have fallen 27.6 percent between December and January since 1988, when CoreLogic DataQuick data began. This year’s drop was 29.4%, and 21.7% below the average of 17,322 sales (since 1988). If you want to know the low, it was 9,983 sale in January of 2008.
“The January and February statistics are always interesting, and sometimes a bit strange, but they’re not necessarily a good indication of what’s to come,” said Andrew LePage, data analyst for CoreLogic DataQuick. “That’s largely because many traditional buyers and sellers drop out of the housing market during the holidays and mid-winter, and therefore don’t close deals during those months. In recent years that’s led to somewhat higher concentrations of investor activity for January and February, and we saw that again last month. Heading into spring it will be interesting to see whether home price appreciation and other factors will finally release a lot of the pent-up supply of homes out there. More owners have gained enough equity to sell and buy another home and more will be satisfied with how much their homes can fetch. At the same time, recent gains in job and income growth, coupled with low mortgage rates, could stoke demand and put significant pressure on home prices unless we see a meaningful jump in inventory.”
The median price paid for all new and resale houses and condos sold in the six-county region in January 2015 was $409,000, down 1.4 percent month over month from $415,000 in December 2014 and up 7.6 percent year over year from $380,000 in January 2014. The median hasn’t changed significantly since September 2014, when it was $413,000. The median’s home price peak for 2014 was $420,000 in August.
Home prices in Southern California have been rising at different rates depending on price segment. In January 2015, the lowest-cost third of the region’s housing stock experienced a 9.0 percent year-over-year increase in the median price paid per square foot for resale single-family detached houses. The annual gain was 5.7 percent for the middle third of the market and 3.2 percent for the top, most-expensive third.
The number of homes that sold for $500,000 or more in January 2015 rose 2.0 percent compared with January 2014. Sales below $500,000 fell 13.8 percent year over year, and sales below $200,000 dropped 30.3 percent.
Do you think this lull was fully due to the winter “drop out” LePage was referring to? What will it take to get year-over-year gains? See also our comments on a real estate bubble, which seems very unlikely today.