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April home sales prove lackluster in Southern California

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The chances of a Southern California housing rebound any time soon are looking increasingly dire, a data firm reported Thursday, as home sales in April fell to their lowest level for that month in three years and prices were largely flat across the region.

Sales fell 5.5% from March to April, and were down 9.2% from April 2010. Typically sales rise slightly from March to April as the spring shopping season -- a key time for the housing market -- begins to gain momentum.

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A total of 18,344 new and previously owned houses and condominiums sold in the Southland, San Diego-based research firm DataQuick reported Thursday.

‘Sales have been far below average for quite a while and there’s little doubt there’s pent-up demand out there. But too many people still aren’t in the mood or in a position to buy,’ DataQuick President John Walsh said. ‘They might be concerned about prices falling more, or can’t qualify for a loan.’

The region’s median sales price in April declined 0.2% from March, to $280,000. That was a decline of 1.8% from the same month a year prior. The median -- the point at which half the homes in the region sold for more and half for less -- has declined on a year-over-year basis for two consecutive months, but still remains considerably above its most recent low point of $247,000, hit in April 2009.

So-called distressed properties made up more than half of the resale market last month. Foreclosures made up 33.9% of all Southland sales of previously owned homes in April, down from 36% in March and 36.4% in April 2010.

Short sales –- in which the sale price fell short of what was owed on a mortgage -- made up an estimated 17.8% of resales last month, DataQuick said. That was down from 18.3% percent in March and 18.1% a year earlier.

The housing market has stumbled since the expiration of popular tax credits for buyers last spring. New home sales, in particular, have struggled to gain ground against the glut of foreclosure properties on the market. Sales of newly built homes rose 1.9% in April from the same month a year earlier, but it was still the region’s second-slowest April since 1988, when DataQuick’s statistics begin.

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-- Alejandro Lazo

Twitter: @AlejandroLazo


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