A Housing Rebound in Los Angeles County

by: Tim Iacono

Yesterday, DataQuick released the Southern California real estate sales report for the month of January. Overall, it's the same old story - from year ago levels, sales volume is way down and the median price is between +5 percent and -5 percent of where it was, depending upon where you live.

For the region as a whole, the median price is up 6.1 percent from year ago levels.

Who are these people paying $530,000 for a house that would have fetched only $500,000 a year ago?

While the overall price statistics are dominated by Los Angeles County, where prices are still on the rise, other counties are well past their peak, notably San Diego County which is now at Summer 2004 levels. []

In year-over-year price comparisons, San Diego County has been in negative territory for eight months while Ventura County has posted negative numbers for five months. Orange, Riverside, and San Bernardino seem equally likely to take the plunge next.

Los Angeles County, the highest sales volume area by far, has registered two consecutive months of +5 percent year-over-year gains.

The sales volume chart below shows a number of interesting details for Los Angeles County. First, its seasonal sales volume lags the other counties. In all other counties, sales volume falls off a cliff in January, stays there during February, then bounces back up in March. For LA County the plunge doesn't start until February, so look for a big drop in next month's report.

Also note the difference in sales volume between the counties. While they may appear to be equal in the charts above, Los Angeles County has ten times the sales volume as Ventura County and double the volume of most others. This goes a long way in explaining why prices in Southern California as a whole rose 6 percent year-over-year.

In this release, DataQuick announced changes to the way they record transactions and how they calculate the median price. Neither of these changes appear to be nefarious in any way, though they do distort the data a bit - the charts above use a combination of revised and unrevised historical data, but this shouldn't affect the trend.

As always, look around your neighborhood to see what's for sale at what price, then consult Zillow.com to see what's been sold recently in order to determine which direction prices are really headed near you.