Home sales in Southern California fell for the fifth consecutive month in April, decelerating to their slowest pace since 2001, while home-price growth returned to a more normal clip, a real estate information service reported today.

A total of 24,748 new and resale homes sold in Los Angeles, Riverside, San Diego, Ventura, San Bernardino and Orange counties in April, down 16.1 percent from 29,509 in March and down 21.3 percent from 31,431 in April last year.

The year-over-year sales decline was the steepest since April 1995, when home purchases slowed 24 percent. Last month’s sales count was the lowest for any April since 24,120 homes were sold in April 2001. DataQuick’s statistics, which go back to 1988, show an average April for the nineteen years saw 23,660 sales.

“March and April have shown us that the boom phase of this cycle is behind us, so now it’s just a question of how the cycle ends. Right now it looks like changes in the real estate market are happening gradually. But there’s a lot of uncertainty among analysts regarding the effect of higher interest rates and how fast the economy is generating demand in regional markets,” said Marshall Prentice, DataQuick president.

The median price paid for a home in Los Angeles, Riverside, San Diego, Ventura, San Bernardino and Orange counties was $485,000 last month. That was down 0.2 percent from a revised $486,000 in March and up 9 percent from $445,000 in April a year ago.

The 9 percent year-over-year increase in the April median price marked the first time appreciation was in single digits since November 2001, when the $238,000 median rose 9.2 percent from $218,000 the year before. Due to a calculating error, the regional median was misreported last month. The medians for all individual counties were correct.

The typical monthly mortgage payment that Southland buyers committed themselves to paying was $2,354 last month, up from $2,315 for the previous month, and up from $2,076 for April a year ago. Adjusted for inflation, current payments are about 7.2 percent above typical payments in the spring of 1989, the peak of the prior real estate cycle.

Indicators of market distress are still largely absent, DataQuick reported. Financing with adjustable-rate mortgages has declined in recent months and 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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