New homes are under construction in a development in Carlsbad, Calif. Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2012. Home sales in Southern California jumped 14 percent in December over the previous month — a usual seasonal jump — but the sales price bottomed out as investors concentrated on cheaper homes, a real estate firm reported Tuesday. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)
SAN DIEGO (AP) — Home sales in Southern California jumped 14 percent in December over the previous month — a usual seasonal jump — but the sales price bottomed out as investors concentrated on cheaper homes, a real estate firm reported Tuesday.
There were 19,247 homes sold in Los [auth] Angeles and five other counties, according to DataQuick. While sales normally rise as people try to close deals before the year’s end for tax reasons, it wasn’t enough to push the regional housing market out of a slump.
The figure still was down 1.4 percent from the previous December and 22 percent lower than the December average since 1988.
“Last year ended much the way it began, with pitifully low new-home sales, record investor activity, drum-tight credit, and lots of potential buyers and sellers just sitting tight,” DataQuick President John Walsh said.
Still, there was hope that the market would improve, he added.
“Some of the economic vital signs have improved lately and it’s sparked a renewed sense of optimism in housing circles,” he said. “Coupled with incredibly low mortgage rates, it certainly suggests 2012 might offer the ‘rock bottom’ for pricing that many buyers and sellers have been waiting for.”
The median sales price was $270,000, down nearly 2 percent from November and matching January and October for the lowest price of 2011.
Price mattered, with a nearly 6 percent jump in the number of homes that sold for less than $200,000, while the figure for sales above $800,000 fell more than 21 percent.
Newly built homes were hit especially hard, with sales down 12 percent compared to December of 2010 — the lowest December level on record. Year-over-year sales of existing homes only dipped a half-percent.
Nearly one in three homes resold last month was a foreclosure and about one in five existing homes were sold short, that is, the sellers got less than they owed on the property.
A record share of sales went to absentee buyers, mainly investors and vacation-home buyers. They accounted for 26.4 percent of home sales, up more than 25 percent from November and more than 23 percent from a year earlier.