Jan. home sales down in Calif. | TheUnion.com

Jan. home sales down in Calif.

California home sales dipped 33.4 percent in January from December, and 5.4 percent compared to January 2009, suggesting the market may have lost some of the momentum it gained in the second half of 2009, according to a real estate tracking firm.

San Diego-based MDA DataQuick reported Thursday that an estimated 27,858 new and resale houses and condos were sold statewide last month. That’s compared to 41,837 in December and 29,458 statewide in January 2009.

A decrease in sales from December to January is normal for the season, according to DataQuick. But, on average, sales have dropped 28 percent, the firm said.

In the nine-county San Francisco Bay area, the drop in sales was even greater – 38 percent, according to DataQuick.

The January figures show that the market has lost some of the energy it gained when home buyers rushed to ensure they could take advantage of a tax credit, ultra-low mortgage rates and lower prices, said John Walsh, MDA DataQuick president.

“It’s difficult to gauge how much of the slowdown stems from a thinner inventory of homes for sale in some areas as opposed to lower demand,” he said. “Whether last month’s relatively weak performance portends any substantial, lasting changes in the market is unclear. One month doesn’t make a trend and, in the past, January hasn’t proven to be very predictive.”

Indicators of market distress continue to move in different directions, according to DataQuick. Foreclosure activity is off its recent peak but remains high by historical standards, with mortgage default notices flattening or trending lower in some areas but edging higher in others. Financing with multiple mortgages is low and down payment sizes are stable, DataQuick reported.

Of the existing homes sold last month, 44 percent were properties that had been foreclosed on during the last year. That’s up from 40 percent in December but down from 58.2 percent in January 2009.

Foreclosures resales statewide peaked at 58.2 percent last February.

The median sales price also indicated mixed news. The median price paid for a home last month was $247,000, according to DataQuick. That’s down 6.4 percent from $264,000 in December but up 10.3 percent from January 2009, when the median was $224,000.

The January median’s year-over-year increase was the third in a row, following 27 months of year-over-year decline. The median peaked at $484,000 in early 2007 and hit a low of $221,000 last April, DataQuick said.

In the nine-county Bay Area, the median home price dipped 8 percent over December’s, as demand shifted toward foreclosures and less-expensive inland homes, according to DataQuick. The median price last month was $350,000, down from $380,000 in December, but up from $300,000 in January 2009.

DataQuick said it is not unusual for the Bay Area’s median sale price to fall between December and January. The average change between those two months over the past 22 years is a decline of 2.4 percent.

Last month’s median dipped more sharply from December as the percentage of foreclosure sales and sales in lower-cost areas rose relative to December, according to DataQuick. The median was still higher than in January 2009 because foreclosures were far more plentiful a year ago, and sales in lower-cost inland areas far greater than in higher-end areas.

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