Home market remains sparse

The number of single-family homes for sale in Glendale took a nose dive last month, dropping nearly 50% compared to the same period last year, according to the latest local real estate report.

The drop was even steeper for the amount of condominiums on the market, falling by more than 54%, according to the report by Realtor Keith Sorem with Keller Williams of Glendale.

There were 80 condos on the market last month, a hefty slide from 175 up for sale in February 2011.

There were 129 single-family homes for sale last month, down from 252 houses during the same month last year, according to the report.

Houses have been snatched up quickly the past several months for two reasons: low interest rates and declining home prices, Sorem said.

In La Crescenta-Montrose area, the number of houses for sale plummeted 57%, from 135 to 58, while the number of condos decreased by more than 52%, from 21 to 10.

In La Cañada Flintridge, there were 56 homes on the market last month, a 42% drop from the 97 in February 2011.

Burbank is also facing low housing inventory.

There were 198 single-family homes for sale in February 2011, but the number dropped to 140 last month, according to statistics compiled by the Burbank Assn. of Realtors.

Likewise, the number of available condos in Burbank declined, from 49 in February 2011 to 33 last month.

Another factor contributing to the reduced housing inventory is the fact that investors are stepping in, buying houses at low prices and then renting them in hopes of selling when prices rebound, said Paul Habibi, professor of real estate at UCLA.

“It’s a profitable venture,” he said, adding that rents have remained relatively high.

Depending on how the home purchase is financed, a monthly rent payment can cover the mortgage, interest and property taxes, Habibi said.

It’s a nationwide trend, he said, that probably won’t change until new home construction picks up again, hopefully in a few years.

“But it won’t be like it was,” Habibi cautioned.

Another reason for low inventory is the number of distressed homes on the market, which are usually priced to sell.

More than 54% of homes sold in Glendale last month were either short sales — in which a lender lets a homeowner sell a house for less than they owe on the mortgage — or they were owned by a bank. Distressed home sales made up only 31.5% of total sales in February 2011.

In looking at other information on the latest stats, the number of single-family homes sold in Glendale remained steady at 37 last month and in February 2011.

There were 17 condos sold last month, up from 15 in February last year.

The median price for condos dropped, though, from $300,000 in February 2011 to $228,000 last month.

Single-family homes saw their median price nudge up slightly, from $610,000 in February 2011 to $615,000 last month.

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