A Southland home sales recovery gained steam in February as a record number of deep-pocketed investors snapped up distressed properties at bargain-basement prices. With so many purchases of low-end homes, median prices remained in a slump. The influx of cash from speculators helped push February sales to their highest level for that month in five years, real estate firm DataQuick reported Wednesday. The increase was fueled by purchases of properties costing less than $200,000. Sales of homes costing more than $800,000 sank.
The activity on the low end helped push the region’s median price down 3.7% from February 2011. At $264,750, the median — the point at which half the homes in the region sold for more and half for less — is now just 7.2% above the market’s 2009 bottom, reached during the worst of the financial crisis.
In related news, the foreclosure picture improved throughout California last month, according to Irvine data tracker RealtyTrac.
In Los Angeles and Orange counties, all forms of foreclosure filings fell 18% in February from a year earlier. Filings include notices of default, notices of foreclosure sales and repossessions. Foreclosure filings dropped 11% in the Inland Empire and 9% in San Diego County over the same time period. Nationwide, February filings declined 8% from a year earlier.
Longtime Los Angeles real estate agent Leo Nordine said Southern California’s housing market has probably hit bottom, but he added, “prices are going to be flat as a pancake this year.”
Investors seeking to refurbish foreclosed properties and either resell them to first-time buyers or rent them out were flooding the real estate market at an unprecedented level, Nordine said.
“I’ve never seen it like this before,” Nordine said. “There are so many investors buying right now it’s insane. The top 1% is buying up all the real estate.”