Home sales increase as prices drop

Southern California's home prices fell again in the fourth quarter, reports San Diego-based real estate researcher DataQuick. But, the good news is that many folks are spotting opportunities (aka foreclosures) amid the mess, especially in inland areas, and sales are up from this time last year-last month's sales were the highest for that month since January 2006.

Foreclosures accounted for nearly 60 percent of all resales, while sales of newly built homes were the lowest for a January in over two decades. Rich coastal areas like Bel-Air and Santa Monica saw the smallest sales jump, probably because they've seen the smallest price drop.

"Coastal towns that logged record-low or below-average January sales of existing houses included Bel Air, Beverly Hills and Santa Monica in Los Angeles County; Newport Beach and Laguna Beach in Orange County; and Del Mar and Encinitas in San Diego County. Such areas have so far seen relatively small price declines and haven't benefitted from the wave of bargain hunting that's boosted inland sales for months. "We've heard a lot of talk, regarding the decline in home values, about how 'no one wants to catch a falling knife.' But for months we've seen quite a flurry of sales activity in many inland areas where prices have fallen more in line with local incomes," said John Walsh, DataQuick president.

The average home price in the six-county area studied now sits at $250,000, the lowest figure since clocking in at $242,000 in February 2002. And median prices are down 39.8 percent from $415,000 in January 2008.

   
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