July 17th, 2009 8:05 AM by Lehel Szucs
LOS ANGELES - Southland homeowners are used to seeing home prices drop ... but prices on the rise?
That good news was relayed Wednesday when real estate tracking firm MDA DataQuick reported that the median price of a home in Southern California surged 6.4 percent in June from May to the highest level in 30 months.
The boost was fueled by a long-stifled wave of high-end properties that hit the market, the agency said.
The median price in the six-county area climbed to $265,000 last month from $249,000 in May, accounting for a second consecutive month-to-month increase.
DataQuick attributed the jump to an increasing number of deals above $500,000, as more buyers responded to price cuts. Resales of such homes rose to 19.6 percent of all sales in June, up from a low of 13.4 percent in January.
"Sales in many higher-cost neighborhoods couldn't have gotten much lower, so this recent uptick in activity should come as no surprise," DataQuick president John Walsh said in a statement. "The recession and problem mortgages are fueling more high-end distress, hence more high-end `bargains."'
Tom Adams, owner of Century 21 Adams & Barnes, said homes that are priced for the current market are going quickly - and many are getting multiple offers.
"The general consensus is that we've hit bottom," he said. "People are really starting to to step up, and we're starting to see more move-up buyers."
More high-end homes are moving as a result, and that's bumping up the region's median price, Adams said.
The key, he stressed, is pricing.
"If you price things competitively, they will sell," Adams said. "You're still seeing some homes that stay on the market for a long time, but those are the ones who haven't gotten serious with their pricing."
Last month's median was the highest since last December's $278,000. But it was still 47.5 percent below the median price of $360,000 a year ago.
Chris Vigil, a broker/associate with Keller Williams in Whittier, said first-time buyers have already gobbled up many of the market's bank-owned properties.
"We are seeing some move-up buyers but not as many as we'd like," he said.
Vigil said a 90-day, state-imposed moratoriun on home forclosures is encouraging banks to do loan modifications for struggling mortgage holders before resorting to foreclosure.
But that simply won't work in all cases.
"There might be a divorce, or a job loss ... or maybe a teacher taking a pay cut," Vigil said. "For those who can make it work, they are seeing good results. But others just can't swing it."
And then there's the question of getting a loan. Adams said low interest rates have drawn scores of first-time buyers into the market, but many banks haven't had the staffing to respond to the loan demand.
"These lenders have seen a level of business they weren't ramped up for," he said. "This doesn't mean you're not going to get a loan. But it might take longer. Don't look for 30-day escrows - plan on 45 days."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.