BUSINESS

Southern California home sales down, prices flat

January's often a slow month for home sales. Experts watching to see what blooms this spring

Southern California's housing market got off to a slow start for the year in January, with sales down and prices treading water.

That's according to new figures out Tuesday from CoreLogic DataQuick. They found that the number of homes sold in the six-county Southland dipped 6.3% compared to January 2014. The median price was up 7.6% from January 2014, but has been basically flat at $409,000 since May.

While the improving economy has some market-watchers predicting a strong spring, that didn't show up in the January numbers, which reflect deals that were mostly reached toward the end of 2014. The next few months should be a more telling indicator of where the market is heading, said Andrew LePage, an analyst with the housing data service.

"Heading into spring it will be interesting to see whether price appreciation and other factors will finally release a lot of the pent-up supply of homes out there," LePage said.

"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 prices unless we see a meaningful jump in inventory."

In January, price growth was strongest in Los Angeles County, with the median up 12.6% compared to last year to $460,000, and weakest in Orange, where the median grew 2.3% to $562,500.

Keep an eye on housing and real estate in Southern California. Follow me on Twitter at @bytimlogan.

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