SAN DIEGO (AP) — Sales in expensive coastal regions pushed Southern California home prices to a 20-month high in May as low-priced foreclosed properties made up a smaller part of overall sales, a research firm said Wednesday.
The median price for new and existing houses and condos reached $295,000 in May, up 5.4 percent from $280,000 the same period last year, DataQuick said. It marked the second straight month that the price increased from a year earlier, following 13 straight year-on-year declines. It was also the highest median price since $295,500 in September 2010.
The number of homes sold in a six-county region jumped 20.6 percent from last year to 22,192.
The San Diego-based researcher said the numbers reflected a "long, step-by-tiny-step trek back toward normalcy." The median price is still more than 40 percent below its peak of $505,000 in the middle of 2007. It bottomed at $247,000 in April 2009.
Sales in more expensive coastal regions lifted the median price, DataQuick said. San Diego, Orange, Los Angeles and Ventura counties accounted for about 70 percent of sales, up from 67.6 percent a year ago.
Foreclosed properties, which tend to sell at a discount, were less significant to the overall market. Homes that had been foreclosed upon in the previous year represented 26.7 percent of existing-home sales, down from 33.2 percent in May 2011 and down from 56.7 percent in February 2009.
"The market is being slowly nursed back to health by low interest rates, a modestly improved economy and, we suspect, a widening sense that the housing sector is at or near bottom. There's still plenty of uncertainty swirling around out there," said DataQuick President John Walsh.
The lowest-priced homes had long been driving sales in Southern California, but recent figures show that all pricing categories are drawing more interest from buyers.
The number of Southern California homes sold in May for less than $200,000 rose 7 percent from a year earlier, while the number that sold for $200,000 to $400,000 increased 18.9 percent, DataQuick said. Sales between $300,000 and $800,000 jumped 23.1 percent, and sales over $800,000 rose 11.8 percent.