California Million-Dollar Home Sales Highest Since 2007

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The number of Golden State homes sold for a million dollars or more rose last quarter to its highest level in almost five years, the result of an improving economy, some price increases and improved mortgage availability. The year-over-year gain for $1 million-plus sales was nearly double the increase for the overall housing market, a real estate information service reported.

A total of 7,763 homes sold for $1 million plus during the April-to-June period. That was up 79.5 percent from 4,325 during the first quarter, and up 18.5 percent from 6,553 in 2011’s second quarter, according to San Diego-based DataQuick.

The jump in million-dollar sales last quarter outpaced overall home sales. Total California home sales – including all price levels – increased 10.3 percent year-over-year last quarter, from 109,713 in second-quarter 2011 to 121,058 last quarter.

Last quarter’s $1 million-plus sales were the highest since third-quarter 2007, when 10,946 changed hands. The highest quarter in DataQuick’s records, which go back to 1988, was third-quarter 2005, when 15,898 homes sold for $1 million or more.

“This market always responds to its own set of incentives. Most homebuyers agonize about income, down payments and mortgage interest rates. And while there may be some of that in the prestige market, buyers there also watch what kind of returns their assets are bringing from investments and savings. If your money is parked in a savings account or something else that is low-risk, you’re not making much and real property might look good,” said John Walsh, DataQuick president.

“Part of the sales increase is because prices are going up, pushing some near-million-dollar homes up over the million-dollar threshold. Those price increases don’t appear to be dramatic, but they may also be pushing fence-sitters into the market,” he said.

Statewide, 188 homes sold for $5 million or more last quarter, while 122 were in the $4-$5 million range, 316 were in the $3-$4 million range, 909 were in the $2-$3 million range, 5,100 were in the $1-$2 million range. The exact price on the rest could not be determined, although financing and other factors made it clear that it was a million-dollar sale.

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Southland Home Sales Up Again From 2011; Median Price Nears 4-Yr High

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La Jolla, CA—Southern California home sales rose above the year-ago level for the seventh consecutive month in July despite continued declines in low-end distress sales. Increased activity in move-up and high-end submarkets also contributed to a significant rise in the region’s median sale price, which neared a four-year high, a real estate information service reported.

The median price paid for a home in the six-county Southland rose to $306,000 last month, up 2.0 percent from $300,000 in June and up 8.1 percent from $283,000 in July 2011, according to San Diego-based DataQuick.

July’s median was the highest since the median was $308,500 in September 2008. The median has risen month-to-month for six consecutive months and has increased year-over-year for the past four. July’s 8.1 percent annual gain was the highest for any month since July 2010, when the median rose 10.1 percent.

Greater demand, partially triggered by historically low mortgage rates, and a thinner inventory of homes for sale help explain recent gains in the median price. But the increases also stem from a sharp drop in foreclosure resales, which often sell at a steep discount and are concentrated in lower-cost areas, as well as a substantial increase in the portion of sales in mid- to high-end neighborhoods.

It appears that about half of the 8.1 percent year-over-year gain in July’s median sale price can be attributed to the shift in market mix. In July, price levels for the lowest-cost third of Southern California’s housing stock rose 4.9 percent year-over-year, while they rose 4.8 percent in the middle and dipped 0.8 percent in the top third.

“Even adjusting for changes in market mix, there’s growing evidence prices have crept up in areas where more demand has met a shrinking number of homes for sale. But we’re approaching the peak of the traditional spring-summer home-buying season. Whether these trends hold into the fall and winter isn’t clear. If they do, then logically the number of homes on the market would eventually rise to meet the demand. More owners will be interested in selling, knowing their homes are likely to fetch a higher price, and more people will shift from a negative to at least a slightly positive equity position, enabling them to sell. Home builders could rev up operations and lenders could push more distressed properties onto the market sooner. It would tame any price appreciation,” said John Walsh, DataQuick president.

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