Southern California housing numbers improve in February

Southern California home sales jumped higher in February with a 9.1% gain compared with last year, partly because of an increase in sales for mid- to high-range houses, according to real estate data released Wednesday.

A total of 15,373 new and existing homes and condominiums were sold last month in Southern California, up from 14,096 in February 2015. That amounted to a 5.1% increase over January's sales, according to data firm CoreLogic.

The Inland Empire saw some of the biggest increases. Riverside County home sales were up 12.5% compared with last year, and San Bernardino County jumped 10.8%. San Diego County saw the lowest increase, with a 2.1% jump compared with February 2015.

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In Los Angeles County, 5,186 homes were sold in February, a 10.4% increase compared to last year.

February sales typically increase 0.9% between the months of January and February, said Andrew LePage, a CoreLogic research analyst.

"So far this year, Southern California home sales are off to a stronger start than last year," LePage said. "The caveat is that the picture varies by price category."

LePage noted that January and February sales above $500,000 rose 18%, while sales below $300,000 fell 4% compared with last year.

But he cautioned that the sales numbers are not necessarily indicative of what's to come. Sales in January and February are typically low because many people prefer not to buy or sell during the winter months.

"We’ll really start to see over the next few months what sort of home-buying season we’re going to have," LePage said.

The $430,000 median price paid for homes in Los Angeles, Riverside, San Diego, Ventura, San Bernardino and Orange counties in February was little changed. It was up 3.7% from the same month a year earlier, but down 0.5% from January's $432,500.

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