Jergler: Homes less than $500K are in demand

Home for less than $500,000 is the norm in most communities, but only in times of continually falling home prices would you talk about homes for sale for under that price-point in coveted areas like Laguna Niguel and Aliso Viejo.

And buyers, many of them first-time buyers, seem to be keying in on the fact that there are deals to be had nowadays in such places. Add to the mix that more sellers have pulled listings from the market in the past two years, and it's left the less than $500,000 market segment in Orange County low in supply and higher in demand — a reversal from the norm for the rest of the housing market.

Sari Ward, with Prudential California Realty in Laguna Niguel, was the listing agent and host at an open house for a two-bedroom, 2.5-bath townhome in for $364,000 in Aliso Viejo this week.

Despite rain and gloomy weather, the showing was a good one and likely a successful one, she said.

"In three hours, I had seven buyers walking through," Ward said. "It was raining, so that drives the non-serious buyers away."

She added that a deal will likely result from the open house.

"There's definitely been some talk," she said.

It's the price range more than the property itself that Ward thinks is attracting so much interest.

"That's a really hot price range," she said.

It's also a range in which there are a dwindling number of homes for sale in Orange County, according to the Multiple Listing Service.

"The number of homes for sale right now for Orange County is going down month-over-month," Ward said.

Supply is low and demand is rising, which means "the same buyers are looking at fewer homes," Ward said.

According to the most recent MLS data, there were 4,121 homes listed in Orange County at less than $500,000; that number is down nearly 3,000 homes from two years ago. The number of homes listed in that range began falling dramatically in the summer of 2011 and has continued to decrease since then, according to the MLS.

Also in the last two years, the number of pending transactions in that range has slowly risen, from less than 1,100 to 1,692 homes in escrow in December.

"Looking at the number, it appears that we've maybe hit the bottom in that price range," she said.

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