Home prices improving, but inventory is low

Home values are becoming as firm as a holiday fruitcake in and around Pasadena, but there still aren’t enough properties on the market to satisfy would-be buyers.

The average price of a home sold in October 2012 in Pasadena, La Cañada Flintridge, South Pasadena and San Marino was higher than it was in October 2011, according to figures compiled by Glendale Keller Williams agent Keith Sorem.

But the region continues to see a dearth of listings. In Pasadena, 156 homes were on the market in October, compared with 296 in October of 2011, according to Sorem. In La Cañada Flintridge, 49 homes were listed last month compared with 75 a year earlier. San Marino and South Pasadena had 29 homes for sale between them, compared with 56 a year earlier.

In Pasadena, sale prices shot from $612,000 in October 2011 to $721,000 last month.

In La Cañada Flintridge, the average sale price in October 2012 was $1.12 million, up slightly from $1.01 million a year earlier. In South Pasadena, the average price rose from $1.03 million to $$1.16 million. In San Marino, with the best public schools in the state and a market boosted by investors from Asia, the average selling price grew from $1.46 million a year ago to $2.06 million last month.

Meg Middleman, a Dilbeck agent in South Pasadena, said people seeking to buy while interest rates hover below 4% are competing fiercely for available homes.

While many sellers like to wait until spring to list their properties, with demand so strong Middleman is urging people to jump in.

“The myth of ‘You shouldn’t put your home on the market during the holidays’” just goes out the window right now,” she said.

Matthew Bryant with Prudential in South Pasadena said the gradual economic recovery is giving people confidence, but jitters remain about issues ranging from the global oil supply to the “fiscal cliff” that the federal government faces if it doesn’t alter plans for steep service cuts and tax hikes to go into effect in January.

“The trajectory is going a little bit in the right direction, but it could be knocked off track pretty quick,” Bryant said.

Sorem said that despite the much smaller inventories this year, homes are selling at nearly the same pace they were in 2011. Yet the supply-demand imbalance has not prompted a major price increase.

The slow-and-go recovery is likely the main factor, he said, along with the continued presence in the market of distressed homes — properties in or at risk of foreclosure. The market may improve only incrementally for the next few years, he said.

“It’s jobs,” Sorem said, noting that California’s unemployment rate, while better than a year ago, is still above 10%. “Even with interest rates as low as they are and prices being down, we’re not seeing a big gain in values.”

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