April 6th, 2009 8:21 AM by Lehel Szucs
Home sales jumped 69.3 percent in Los Angeles County in February, compared with the same period a year ago, as bargain hunters swooped in on the glut of foreclosed homes across the region and real-estate agents touted a bottoming-out market, according to figures released Wednesday.
The median price of a single-family home in the county was $298,000 in February, compared with $465,000 last year - a 35.9 percent dip - according to the California Association of Realtors.
Cities in the San Gabriel Valley saw home values drop more than 40 percent, according to the association.
For instance, Azusa's prices fell 45.3 percent, from $429,500 to $235,000; Pomona's prices dropped 39.7 percent, from $323,500 to $195,000; La Puente went from $400,000 to $255,000 (down 36.3 percent); and Baldwin Park went from $349,000 to $230,000 (down 34.1 percent).
Local cities with small year-to-year differences included San Gabriel (down 0.7 percent) and Arcadia (down 6.6 percent).
Arcadia's median home price was the highest in the Valley, at $635,000. Pomona's was the lowest, at just below $200,000.
Regardless of falling prices, homes are selling, and that bodes well for a market that's trying to sweep up the wave of foreclosures that have clogged the market, observers said.
"A lot of foreclosed properties are coming into the market ... there's a big selection of homes to choose from at very attractive rates," said Jack Kyser, founding economist of the Los Angeles Economic Development Corp.
Those prices will continue to go down throughout the year, Kyser said.
But "there will be some type of bottoming out late this year and into next year," he added.
The fall won't be good news for people who owe more on their home loans than what the loans are worth, Kyser said. But as eager first-time homebuyers get into a market of cheap homes, the carnage left in the wake of last year's subprime crash is being cleaned up.
"You're bringing out a bubble, and that's always painful," he said.
It's also been drastic.
Sales and transactions in the first 11 weeks of 2009 have increased 300 percent, said Tom Adams, a real-estate agent in Monrovia.
That will continue as more homeowners short-sell and see banks foreclose on their homes. Low interest rates coupled with generous tax credits and FHA loan programs will also help clean up the glut, Adams said.
"What my gut tells me and what I see in the marketplace is that we have probably already bottomed out," he said.
Still, it will be a long road until prices stop their fall, Realtors and economists said.
Many foreclosures remain on the market. And as unemployment rises, more will likely come.
The report also showed that sales in California are stronger than in other areas of the country, said James Liptak, CAR's president.
The median price of an existing, single-family detached home in California in February was $247,590, compared to $253,330 the previous month and $418,260 in February of last year, according to CAR.
According to the association: "The market will continue to register large but diminishing year-to-year percentage gains in the coming months, as current sales are compared against the extremely low numbers that prevailed during the early months of the credit crunch."
Wire reports contributed to this story.