After two years of slim pickings for Southern California home buyers, the supply of houses for sale may be starting to open up, at least a bit. And that could power the region’s housing market to a stronger spring.
The fundamentals are good. But affordability is going to stare us right in the face again.
– Selma Hepp, senior economist at C.A.R.
Market watchers and real estate agents say they’re starting to see more sellers as prices remain relatively high, interest rates stay low and fewer borrowers owe more on their houses than they’re worth. The number of homes listed for sale in February climbed 9% in Los Angeles County from a year earlier, according to data from the California Assn. of Realtors, and the time it would take to sell every house on the market was at its highest level in three years.
“Supply is not an issue right now, not like it was,” said Rich Simonin, chief executive of Westcoe Realtors in Riverside. “It’s not a problem.”
That’s a shift from the last few years, when many sellers held their homes off the market and bidding wars were common for the rare well-priced listing. More supply should help keep prices in check, economists say, and coupled with an improving economy could help fuel a broad recovery in the region’s housing market over the next few months.
But so far the housing market has been in a slump.
lRelated Housing starts fall in February as home builders hit the brakes
Housing starts fall in February as home builders hit the brakes
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Home sales in the six-county Southland fell 2.7% in February from a year earlier, according to figures out Tuesday from CoreLogic DataQuick; it was the 15th time in 17 months that sales have fallen. Although the region’s median sale price of $415,000 was up 8.4% compared with February 2013, it has been basically flat since last summer, when it plateaued as many buyers hit a ceiling for what they could afford.
Selma Hepp, senior economist at C.A.R., says measures of buyer interest — online real estate searches and open-house traffic — have jumped in recent weeks. If that activity translates into sales, it could put a new round of pressure on pricing, she said.