Southern California home sales flat in January as prices fall

This post has been corrected. See the note at the bottom for details.

Home sales in the Southland were mostly flat in January as prices fell.

The number of newly built and previously owned homes sold was up 0.4% last month from January 2011. A total of 14,523 single-family homes, town homes and condominiums sold in the six-county region, according to data firm DataQuick.

The market for new homes remained especially weak, with only 669 newly built properties selling in January, the lowest number for any month since DataQuick started keeping track in 1988. The month of January is not particularly indicative of where the market is heading, the data clearly indicate that prospective buyers are still finding it difficult to get financing, DataQuick president John Walsh said.

“What we can determine is that the mortgage market remains dysfunctional,” he said.

The region’s median sales price fell 3.7% from January to hit $260,000, the lowest point since May 2009 during the depths of the financial crisis, but above the low of $247,000 set in April 2009.

Driving the continued poor performance in prices is a concentration of properties being purchased in lower-end and cheaper markets by investors. So-called absentee buyers – mostly investors as well as some second-home purchasers – bought a record 26.8% percent of Southland homes in January, paying a median $193,500. In the Inland Empire, absentee buyers accounted for a record 33.6% of sales.

For the record, 3:50 p.m. Feb. 15: A previous version of this post said the region's median sale prices fell 3.7% from January to hit $249,000. 


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