Thursday, June 19, 2008

California Lures Bargain Hunters

There's a flicker of light at the end of the tunnel that swallowed California's housing market. But it's likely to be 2010 before Golden State housing really sees the light.

by Broderick Perkins
© 2008 DeadlineNews.Com

Deadline Newsroom - California's housing market can see a very faint glimmer at the end of the tunnel.

Unfortunately, it'll be at least another year before the Golden State's housing market really sees the light.

The latest Anderson Forecast at the University of California in Los Angeles reports that California has suffered through several years of declining sales and rising foreclosures.

First quarter mortgage defaults in California rose 143 percent -- the highest level in 15 years, according to La Jolla, California-based DataQuick Information Systems.

But slow sales and rising inventories made home prices more affordable. More bargain-hunters have been attracted to the market, according to Ryan Ratcliff, an Anderson Forecast economist.

In April, the median price for single-family homes crashed 32 percent year-over-year, pushing the median price down $200,000, according to California Association of Realtors.

However, during the same period, home sales rose 2.5 percent, according to the association.

Don't expect a quick turnaround in the Golden State.

High foreclosure rates are expected to continue into 2009, the report said, with a "normal" market "still a long way off."

The report says California is about half way through a three-stage market slump with a mountain of inventory to get through before there's a full recovery.

Some regional sales continue to fall in the Golden State.

Home sales -- both houses and condos -- in southern California dropped 15 percent last month to the lowest level for a May in two decades. Prices spiraled down 27 percent, according to DataQuick.

The median home price, $370,000 last month, is as low as it's been in southern California since March 2004.

In the San Francisco Bay Area sales were down year-over-year more than 23 percent, as home sales in May dipped to their slowest pace at least since 1988, when DataQuick began monitoring sales. One in four homes sold in May in the 9-county area were foreclosure properties..

The median price paid for a Bay Area home was $517,000, down a record 21.7 percent from $660,000 in May last year and down 22.3 percent from the peak $665,000 median in June and July 2007.

The last time the Bay Area median was lower than $517,000 was back in September 2004, when it was $510,000.

In California, the "unprecedented speed of the price adjustment means that instead of several years of slow bleeding (like the 1990s), we have compressed the necessary adjustment into two years of intense housing pain," Ratcliff wrote in the Anderson Forecast report.

Note: An unscientific, ongoing DeadlineNews.Com poll, "News That Hits Home Survey -- When Will Housing Recover," featured on this blog page, found that among 176 Deadline Newsroom readers who took the poll by June 19, the majority (62 percent) believe housing won't recover before 2010 or later.

Those voting for a 2009 turnaround represented 25 percent of the vote.

Another 11 percent think the market will recover this year.

© 2008 DeadlineNews.Com

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Broderick Perkins, an award-winning consumer journalist of 30 years, is publisher and executive editor of San Jose, CA-based DeadlineNews.Com, a real estate news and consulting service, and the new Deadline Newsroom, DeadlineNews.Com's new backshop. In both cases, it's where all the news really hits home.

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