Home Prices Flat

The median home price in Southern California has been stable for three straight months while sales have been increasing, a real estate tracking firm said Wednesday.
The figures, showing that the median price in the six-county region has remained at $250,000 from January through March, indicate "the market may be exploring price floor levels," MDA DataQuick said in its report.
The firm also said sales increased 52 percent last month to 19,486 from 12,808 in March 2008, led by low-cost foreclosure deals in inland neighborhoods. Last month was the ninth straight month with a year-over-year sales increase.
"Sales are picking up. We're starting to see that home prices are flattening," said Delores Conway, director of the Casden Forecast at the University of Southern California Lusk Center for Real Estate. "These are all signs that the market is starting to stabilize and return to a more normal housing market.

According to DataQuick, there has been a nearly 28 percent year-to-year loss in the median price of a San Diego home, though, down to $285,000 in March 2009.
The flattening prices and increasing sales come amid historically low interest rates and a surge of foreclosed properties that banks have been eager to unload at bargain basement prices.
The market has also benefited from government efforts to help troubled homeowners refinance their mortgages, which has slowed the increase in inventory, as well as the tax credit of up to $8,000 for first-time homebuyers included in February's economic recovery package.
"Real estate is on sale and now you get a coupon," said Marty Rodriguez, a real estate broker in east Los Angeles County who has seen vigorous sales of homes in more affordable neighborhoods. "Buyers who thought they'd never be able to afford a house can actually buy a house. It's like, 'Yay!"'
Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan said last week during a visit to Los Angeles that the Obama administration's efforts to aid the housing market are showing results in California ahead of other states.
"The general sense is, particularly the increase in single-family sales that's being led by California seem to be the biggest jumps of just about anywhere in the country," he said.
Conway, however, warned that high unemployment in the state is putting a drag on recovery and the recent gains could be reversed if many more people lose their jobs and are forced into foreclosure.
"The uncertainty is that unemployment is still rife," she said.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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