For the first time in 13 months, sales of existing single-family homes increased compared to the prior year throughout the Santa Clarita Valley, the Southland Regional Association of Realtors reported on Friday, July 15.
A total of 217 homes closed escrow during June, up 4.3 percent from a year ago and 25.4 percent better than the 173 sales of this May.
Not surprisingly, with homes more desirable and within reach of many families, condominium sales languished. The 80 condos that closed escrow were 12.1 percent below a year ago, yet nonetheless up 1.3 percent from May.
The pattern is partly due to seasonal forces, yet also reflects what is emerging statewide; multiple local communities are reporting increased sales activity as buyers jump into the market intent on capturing today’s highly favorable interest rates on loans and affordable prices.
“Plus, add in Santa Clarita’s reputation as a family-oriented community along with its bustling economic base and it’s no surprise that we’re among the first to recover,” said Sal Aranda, president of the Association’s Santa Clarita Valley Division. “Prices are so favorable and interest rates are so low that buyers have the down payment and often can afford to buy on their own, without the assistance of a co-signer.
“Higher sales have a lot to do with the time of year,” Aranda said, “yet gradual improvements in the economy and the realization that housing again is a highly desirable asset class encourage first-time home buyers to wake up and get excited again.”
Aranda and Jim Link, the Association’s chief executive officer, noted that today’s unique conditions are fleeting and that the recession’s bottom for home sales passed long ago. Single-family sales are up 119.2 percent from its low point, while condominium sales are up 158.1 percent, with both record lows coming in January 2008.
While current activity is concentrated in the under $500,000 price range, Link encouraged anyone seeking to purchase a home priced $600,000 or higher to act quickly.
“Large home loans will cost more and be more difficult to obtain as of Oct. 1, unless Congress acts to keep the current conforming loan limit,” Link said. “Realtors are fighting to keep the higher limit, because a drop now will hamper the burgeoning recovery underway in housing and the economy.”
Barring Congressional action — which seems unlikely given the current political climate — the maximum FHA, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac conforming loan limit will decline to $625,000 as of Oct. 1 from the current $725,950. A lower limit means it will cost buyers more for larger loans, which also come with tougher requirements to qualify.
The median price of homes sold last month throughout the Santa Clarita Valley was $370,000, down 7.5 percent from a year ago. The condominium median price of $200,000 was off 13.0 percent.
The total active inventory of properties for sale increased 9.3 percent during June with 1,116 active listings reported. At the current pace of sales, that represents a 3.8-month supply. A 5- to 6-month supply signals a balanced market.
And, significantly, for the first time since April 2010, pending escrows — a measure of future resale activity — posted a positive number. There were 441 open escrows at the end of June, up 7.8 percent from a year.
The Southland Regional Association of Realtors® is a local trade association with more than 10,000 members serving the San Fernando and Santa Clarita Valleys. SRAR is one of the largest local associations in the nation.