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Southland Home Sales: Slowest
January Since 1998, Stable Prices

La Jolla,CA----Southern California home buyers and sellers continued to eye each other without doing much last month, resulting in the slowest January in nine years, a real estate information service reported.

A total of 18,128 new and resale homes sold in Los Angeles, Riverside, San Diego, Ventura, San Bernardino and Orange counties last month. That was down 25.1 percent from a revised 24,209 for December, and down 17.2 percent from a revised 21,895 for January last year, according to DataQuick Information Systems.

A sales decline from December to January is normal for the season. The year-over-year decline was the most moderate since sales fell 14.8 percent last May. Last month's sales count was the lowest for any January since 1998 when 17,692 homes sold. Since 1988 the average January has had 18,610 sales.

Starting with the January numbers, DataQuick has changed the way it identifies so-called "arm's-length" transactions - normal deals with a buyer and seller and money changing hands. The change, the first since DataQuick began publishing statistics in 1989, takes advantage of significant data enhancements the past 18 years. While the revised numbers increase historic monthly sales counts by about ten percent, trends over time remain virtually unchanged.

The median price paid for a Southern California home was $485,000 last month, down 1.0 percent from a revised $490,000 for December, and up 5.0 percent from a revised $462,000 for January last year. The overall median always declines from December to January because of changes in market mix. December's median matched the peak reached last June.

The revised historic monthly median prices have changed little - about one percent, on average.

DataQuick, a subsidiary of Vancouver-based MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates, monitors real estate activity nationwide and provides information to consumers, educational institutions, public agencies, lending institutions, title companies and industry analysts.

The typical monthly mortgage payment that Southland buyers committed themselves to paying was $2,263 last month, up from $2,242 the previous month and up from $2,130 a year ago. Adjusted for inflation, current payments are 6.9 percent above typical payments in the spring of 1989, the peak of the prior real estate cycle. They are 6.1 percent below the current cycle's peak last June.

Indicators of market distress are still at a moderate level. Financing with adjustable-rate mortgages is declining slightly. Foreclosure activity is rising but is still in the normal range. Down payment sizes are stable and flipping rates and non-owner occupied buying activity is down, DataQuick reported.

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