December 22, 2009 in Business, Nation/World

Home resales in West post 30 percent annual gain

Associated Press
 

LOS ANGELES — Home sales jumped 30 percent in the Western region of the country in November, driven largely by first-time buyers racing to qualify for a tax credit that was set to expire.

In the West, foreclosures and other financially distressed homes in the low price ranges accounted for many deals in California, Arizona and Nevada. That helped pull down the region’s median price by 4 percent to $231,100.

Nationally, sales soared by almost 47 percent from November last year, without adjusting for seasonal factors, the National Association of Realtors said today. The median price dipped 4 percent to $172,600.

The latest data benefited from an easy comparison to November 2008 sales, which were down sharply as the U.S. financial crisis worsened.

Sales in the 13-state region have improved this year, aided by low mortgage interest rates and an $8,000 tax credit for first-time buyers. Congress extended the incentive early last month and expanded it to include $6,500 for existing homeowners who have lived in their current residence for at least five years.

Buyers must sign a contract by the end of April to qualify. And that time cushion means buyers in the market now aren’t in a rush. That, plus the traditional holiday slowdown have reduced foot traffic at open houses this month, several agents said.

“What we’re seeing is that buyers have no sense of urgency now,” said Gary DeRosa, an agent with ZipRealty Inc., in Seattle.

And some sellers are hesitant to put their homes on the market at current prices, he said.

“They’re waiting for prices to go up so that they can at least break even,” he explained.

Still, sales improved in November across many major Western metros, according to The Associated Press-Re/Max Monthly Housing Report, also released Tuesday. The report tallies all home sales in the metropolitan statistical areas. The report counts sales filed by all real estate agents, regardless of company affiliation.

Eleven cities registered annual sales increases last month. Boise, Idaho, Seattle and Honolulu were among the top five U.S. metros with the sharpest increases in November, according to the report.

Nine metros posted annual price declines, with Las Vegas, Boise and Phoenix among the top five cities in the nation to do so, according to the AP-Re/Max report.

Some highlights from the region:

—Steepest price drop: The median home sales price in Las Vegas tumbled nearly 28 percent from a year ago to $125,500 as homebuyers continued to snap up discounted bank-owned properties.

Sales in Sin City, meanwhile, jumped 48 percent from a year earlier.

—Sharpest price gain: San Francisco, where the median price posted an annual increase of nearly 20 percent to $460,000.

—Biggest sales gain: Sales in Boise more than doubled from a year ago. But the metro’s median home price declined versus a year ago by almost 19 percent to $137,990.

—Largest sales decline: Los Angeles saw sales drop about 1.5 percent from November 2008, while the median sale price remained essentially flat at $268,900.

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