Dearth of homes for sale in So California | South Salem Real Estate

Packed open houses. Bidding wars. Rising prices.

That’s the landscape for much of the Southern California housing market as the spring selling season gets underway. Competition is as fierce, or even greater, than last year in many corners of the Southland, and would-be buyers can expect a pitched battle if they want to close a deal, real estate agents say.

The frenzied start has been driven by a dearth of homes for sale, low mortgage rates and steady job growth. Homes are selling faster than a year earlier, with more of them going for above the list price, data from online brokerage Redfin show.

“Be ready to write the offer on the Realtor’s car,” mortgage broker Jeff Lazerson said.

Another sign of the market’s strength came this month when data provider CoreLogic reported that sales in February jumped 9% from a year earlier. The median price, meanwhile, climbed 3.7% — the 47th straight month it’s risen.

Lazerson said his clients in Los Angeles and Orange counties are putting an average of five offers on a house before they’re successful. And he’s seeing more demand from first-time home buyers, as well as those who want to upgrade to a bigger home.

“The market seems to be healthy again on all levels,” he said.

Real estate agent Heather Presha has seen the craziness firsthand.

With few homes for sale in the Leimert Park neighborhood where she works, buyers are flooding open houses that pop up. Many are coming from the Westside, no longer able to afford a home near the ocean as prices have steadily risen across the region.

The added demand is pushing values higher in the South L.A. neighborhood filled with old Spanish-style homes.

Pat Douglas, another agent in Leimert Park, put it this way: “Anything good that is on the market is going quick with multiple offers.”

In Los Angeles County, there was a 4.9-month supply of homes for sale in February compared with a 5.2-month supply a year earlier — meaning no homes would be on the market after that time period if sales continued at their current pace and no new listings emerged, according to the California Assn. of Realtors. Orange County saw a similar trend.

The Realtors consider a six- to seven-month supply a market that favors neither buyers nor sellers.

“The inventory issue is why price growth is strong,” said Redfin chief economist Nela Richardson.

Recently there’s been a healthy jump in listings, Richardson said, but it’s unclear if the trend will hold.

If it does, house hunters such as Abigail Lee and her husband, Ray, would be overjoyed.

The couple are looking for a home under $2 million, but they’ve found little suitable near a good public school. They’ve put in only two offers in the roughly six months they’ve been looking — and were unsuccessful both times.


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