Home sales in Southern California rose above their seasonal pattern in December from November with a 20.5 percent gain but were down 12.5 percent from a year earlier, reflecting a sluggish jobs market and tight credit, MDA DataQuick said on Tuesday.
A total of 19,528 new and resale houses and condominiums were sold in Los Angeles, Orange, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura counties in December, the real estate information service said in a report.
The region's median home price last month was $290,000, up 1.0 percent from November and up 0.3 percent from a year earlier, it added.
Despite the jump in sales between November and December, Southern California's homes market -- especially its new-homes market -- remains slow.
"Last month's total home sales, all new and resale houses and condos combined, were the lowest for that month since December 2007, when 13,240 sold, and the second-lowest since 1995," MDA DataQuick's report said. "December new-home sales were the lowest for that month in DataQuick's records back to 1988. New-home sales for all of 2010 also hit a record low."
The report added that the 0.3 percent annual gain in the region's median home price was the lowest since December 2009, when it began rising on a year-over-year basis.
"We still see the potential for sales to perk up this spring if rates stay low and brighter economic news lifts consumer confidence. Of course, a loosening of credit terms would help an awful lot, too, especially in move-up markets," said John Walsh, DataQuick's president.
"Looking back at 2010, it's hard to ignore the ongoing slump in the Southland's new-home market," Walsh added. "Last year we saw the lowest sales by builders in two decades -- less than half the annual average since 1988 ... What happens next will hinge largely on the pace of the economic recovery and the manner in which lenders manage their inventories of distressed properties, which are competition for new homes."
Sales of homes foreclosed on in the past year accounted for 34.3 percent of the region's resale market last month, down from 35.2 percent in November, 39.6 percent a year earlier and a peak of 56.7 percent in February 2009, DataQuick's report said.