California Home Sales Send Mixed Message

California Home Sales Send Mixed Message

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — November isn’t exactly the busiest season for homebuyers, so it’s no surprise a benchmark index from the California Association of Realtors showed weak support last month.

But a closer look at the association’s figures and other fresh data on the California real estate scene shows a more positive message for Golden State homebuyers, home sellers and the U.S. housing economy as a whole.

Let’s go to the numbers.

For the month of November, the association’s Pending Home Sales Index dropped a surprisingly ample 14.4% for the month. Overall, pending home sales in the state were down 0.9% from November 2011. That’s hardly a devastating number for the regional real estate market, but since pending home sales — as the association describes them — are forward-looking indices, any decline could be a sign things may not going as smoothly for the U.S. housing market.

There is some good news once you dig deeper.

For example, the ratio of “non-distressed” home sales (in other words, purchases of short-sale homes or foreclosed homes) actually rose from October to November, from 63.4% to 64.9%. The Realtor group reports that’s the highest number of such sales since May 2008 — a good sign that “troubled” homes are rolling off the inventory lists and more traditional home sales are taking their place.

Consider this. Distressed property sales in California amounted to 49.8% of all home sales as of November 2011.Now that number stands at 35.1%, a remarkable, and helpful, drop in foreclosed homes on the marketplace.

An even deeper look inside the numbers reveals that California’s main population center — Southern California, encompassing Los Angeles, San Diego and their nearby suburbs — saw their strongest monthly sales since 2005 in November, according to Data Quick, a La Jolla-based real estate information provider.

According to DataQuick, the median home sale price in the sprawling Southern California region was up almost 17% from November 2011 to November 2012. Like CAR, DataQuick points to the decreased inventory of foreclosed (and usually cheaper) homes as a big reason home prices in the area have not only stabilized, but have climbed significantly.