February 26, 2009 in Nation/World

Foreclosures fueling home sales in parts of West

Nationally, numbers down
Alex Veiga Associated Press

Home sales in the Western U.S. surged in January as first-time homebuyers, real estate investors and others seized on bargain-priced foreclosed homes in California, Nevada and Arizona, according to two reports released Wednesday.

A total of 74,000 existing homes and condos were sold in January in the 13-state region. Sales were up 32.1 percent from the same month in 2008, without adjusting for seasonal factors, according to the National Association of Realtors.

As has been the trend since last summer, distressed sales continued to fuel sales in the West, and that helped drag down median home prices in the region by almost 26 percent from the prior year to $220,000, the association said.

Nationally, existing home sales dropped 7.6 percent from January last year, while the U.S. median home price slid almost 15 percent to $170,300.

Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Diego and San Francisco made up the top five major metro areas in the country to register an increase in home sales last month, according to the Associated Press-Re/Max Monthly Housing Report, released Wednesday. The data includes all home sales recorded in the metropolitan statical areas by all local agents, regardless of company affiliation.

Those Western cities ranked among the top 10 U.S. metros to post the sharpest median price declines last month, with San Francisco and Phoenix behind only Detroit.

Elsewhere in the West, sales declined in Honolulu, Billings, Seattle, Portland, Boise, Albuquerque, N.M., Denver and Anchorage, Alaska, according to the AP-Re/Max report.

Of those metros, only Anchorage posted an increase in its median sales price, climbing 6.9 percent to $239,000.

Recession fears and rising unemployment kept many would-be buyers on the sidelines, but others were lured out by cheap prices and low interest rates – which briefly dipped below 5 percent last month.

“That’s what’s driving the first-time buyer,” said Marty Rodriguez, a Century 21 broker-owner in Glendora, a Los Angeles suburb.

Home sales in the Los Angeles metro area more than doubled from a year ago while foreclosures helped push the median sales price in the metro area down more than 37 percent to $250,000.

Sales climbed about 68 percent in the Phoenix metro area, a hotbed of foreclosures that saw speculation-driven price increases during the housing boom. The median home price dropped about 42 percent to $129,900, according to the AP-Re/Max report.

The San Francisco metro area saw the steepest drop in median price in the West, a decline of more than 44 percent to $330,000. Sales jumped by nearly 57 percent, according to the AP-Re/Max report.

In Las Vegas, sales more than doubled versus January 2008 and the median sales price sank more than 36 percent to $149,900.

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