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Southern California home sales plunged in May, while median price inched up

The number of homes sold in May plunged amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The number of homes sold in May plunged amid the coronavirus pandemic.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

The number of homes sold across Southern California fell sharply in May as the coronavirus outbreak put a freeze on the region’s housing market.

Data released Thursday by DQNews reflect deals that closed escrow, meaning most buyers placed their offers in April and even March, during the height of stay-at-home orders.

Closed sales in May plunged 45% from a year earlier, while the region’s median home price rose 2.7%.

Experts say home sales usually decline before prices do in a market downturn because sellers are reluctant to drop their price until they have to.

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As the coronavirus outbreak became a heightened concern, many sellers also pulled their homes from the market, further restricting supply and making price drops less likely.

Still, some indications of price movement are apparent.

Although the region’s median sale price — the point at which half the homes sold for more and half for less — rose again compared with last year, it dipped 1.2% from April.

The 2.7% year-over-year increase was also smaller than the 4.3% gain in April or the 6.8% increase in March.

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Here’s how home sales and prices broke down by county in May:

  • In Los Angeles County, sales fell 49.5% from a year earlier, while the median sales price rose 1.6% to $620,000.
  • In Orange County, sales fell 50.6%, while the median price rose 4.2% to $750,000.
  • In Riverside County, sales fell 43.7%, while the median price rose 6.5% to $415,000.
  • In San Bernardino County, sales fell 33.9%, while the median price rose 6.7% to $368,000.
  • In San Diego County, sales fell 40.7%, while the median price rose 3.5% to $590,000.
  • In Ventura County, sales fell 49.4%, while the median price fell 1.7% to $580,000.

The direction of the overall economy probably will play a big role in whether home prices soften further. Businesses are reopening and more people are venturing outside as governments lift stay-at-home restrictions.

Data covering a later period than that released by DQNews indicate reopening can be seen in the housing market as well, although, as with the general economy, any recovery is in its early stages.

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According to online brokerage Redfin, the number of homes in L.A. County that entered escrow in the four weeks that ended June 7 was 28% higher than the low point at the end of April but still 32% below a year earlier.


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