Home sales in Southern California dropped for the fourth straight month in March, while the median home price set a record, a real estate information service reported.

A total of 29,509 new and resale Southland homes were sold last month, down 17.4 percent from 32,674 for March last year, according to DataQuick Information Systems.

The median price paid for a home in Los Angeles, Riverside, San Diego, Ventura, San Bernardino and Orange counties was $501,000 last month. That was up 14.1 percent from $439,000 for March a year ago, and was up 4.4 percent from $480,000 in February 2006, according to DataQuick.

The regional year-over-year increase in median has varied from 12.9 percent to 17 percent the last 12 months. Last month’s increase ranged from 5.7 percent in San Diego County to 23.2 percent in San Bernardino County.

“We still expect the annual increase in median to go down into the single digits sometime this summer. San Diego County is still the market furthest along in this cycle. Price increases there have been below ten percent the last eleven months,” said Marshall Prentice, DataQuick president.

Indicators of market distress are still largely absent, DataQuick reported, and financing with adjustable-rate mortgages has dropped significantly during the last three months. Foreclosure activity is edging up from its bottom, but is still low. Down payment sizes are stable, as are flipping rates and non-owner occupied buying activity, DataQuick reported.

DataQuick monitors real estate activity nationwide and provides information to consumers, educational institutions, public agencies, lending institutions, title companies and industry analysts.

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