California Home Values–Where Are They?

Home Values Are Up

Here’s what’s happening in housing, according to the most recent reports from NAR [National Association of Realtors] and CAR [California Association of Realtors]. Nationally, the number of home sales declines, but in California home sales rose 14% in May 2010 over the previous month and were up a bit over 1% compared to last year. Of course, last year was a terrible year. This shows, though, that things are getting a bit better, though not by much.

California’s median home price also rose 23% compared to last year, May 2009. Last year the median price was $263,440 and this year the new median for May 2010  is $324,430,  almost 6% higher than the previous month of April 2010. This may seem to be a big jump in one month, so, naturally, we might ask the reason. And, the reason appears to be the federal government’s $8000 tax credit which is set to expire at the end of June 2010. It’s very likely sales volume and possibly the median home price will sink back once the buying frenzy has run its course.  New home buying has already snapped back to the doldrums after a busy couple of months.

Will California Home Prices Rise Soon?

Does this mean we’re coming out of it and should see rising prices from now on? It’s possible that prices will continue to inch up in  California, but more likely they will either decline or stay flat for quite some time. Here are several reasons. One is that a record number of foreclosures is slated to hit the market this summer and into the fall. This is the famous “shadow inventory” that banks have purportedly been holding off the market to prevent a steep slide in values.  That strategy works only so long then it gets old fast because neighborhoods and municipalities have  to deal with the consequences of many vacant properties. It’s better to sell them than leave them open to vandals, meth-heads and squatters.

Another reason we most likely will not see a brisk rise in home values in California anytime soon concerns our ongoing budget crisis which does  not instill confidence in the state. But, the  most important impediment is our stubbornly high unemployment rate. A government in crisis  cannot hire new people in the public sector to help the situation. Unemployed people cannot buy homes and, in fact,  may be on track to lose the homes they’ve been hanging onto. Long-term unemployed who may have been making it on unemployment benefits are now about to lose that lifeline as Congress has failed to renew extra benefits.

What Does This Mean To Home Sellers/Buyers?

The bottom line is–if you are underwater and hoping that the equity in your home will increase substantially in the next year or so, you will probably still be substantially underwater one year from today. If you have equity, but are waiting to sell until the prices “come back”, you will most likely be waiting for a number of years.

If you are a buyer, things are looking good. The new affordable median prices mean that a healthy 66% of first-time time buyers can afford the median-priced home. This is a good sign.

I, personally, have faith in the long-term health of the Golden State. Yet, it seems clear to me that all Californians have a lot of work to do before we return to the “good times” when we had good schools, fine universities, excellent local and state governments and rising home values–all with low taxes and little effort on our part.

SoCal Home Prices: What’s Happening June 2009?

Southern California has become a kind of barometer for troubled home values.  Unlike Nevada and Florida’s transient and part-time populations, in  Southern California  it’s actual home- and condo-owners who live on their properties full-time who are in trouble. Or, we have local investors who find their rental properties are no longer worth the trouble of keeping they are so far underwater. As mentioned in an earlier post, statewide, about 27% of homeowners are now underwater. With the unemployment rate at over 12% and rising, with even the state laying off workers, that percentage is most likely going to get worse.

home floating on waves

Six counties make up Southern California. Here are the stories of the two extremes of the spectrum. On the one end is Orange County, richest of all the counties, full of gorgeous new homes and award-winning planned communities. On the other end is San Bernardino, the New Appalachia, where poverty is grinding and the marginal population is being pushed from the other, richer, surrounding counties. The contrast is stark.

Orange County shows that in some ways things are getting better for us. In Orange County, for instance, last month [June 2009] home values dropped only 8% over last year. That’s the slowest drop in a long time. The median price in Orange County is now $485,000. Some cities have held steady or even improved: Aliso Viejo held last year’s median value of $600,000; Anaheim Hills increased about 10% across its two ZIP codes to a median of $498,000 [92807] and $640,000 [92808]; Fullerton in 92833 decreased less than 2% from last year to a median of $378,000; Fountain Valley also decreased 2% to a median $570,000. Two areas of Irvine increased in median value in 92303 up 5% to $690,000 and in 92616 up 4% to $662,000. Its other areas decreased around 15% to over $600,000 with pricey 92603 down 34% to a median of $920,000.

Laguna Hills rose 1% to a median of $629,000 while Laguna Beach lost 21% over last year to a median $1,265,000. Must be tough. This, of course, makes us wonder what is happening in the highest priced areas, Newport Beach and Newport Coast? Well, there were really too few sales to decide. What sales did take place were unmistakably downward in price, but it would be hard to get too much higher…Corona del Mar had 12 sales in the month showing a 40% slide from last year to $1,180,000.  Seal Beach is now a median of $710,000 while Huntington Beach now has two areas with many sales bring its median to $587,000 [92646 down 5%], $522,000 [92647  down 3%], $695,000 [92649 down 21%] and $822,000 [92649 down 17%].

Orange County does have a few working class areas, such as Santa Ana which shows three areas actually down to a median of less than $300,000 [92701 to an incredible $213000, 92704 to $288,000, 92707 to $255,000]. Orange 92868 is down 10% to $318,000, though its other ZIPs are all closer to $500,000 and holding fairly firm. One area of Garden Grove and one area of Anaheim have medians of less than $300,000 [92844 to$298000 and 92805 to $272,000].

What does this mean? Orange County is the most affluent county in Southern California and its citizens have the most in reserves. Unemployment is less here, but the pain is being felt. As the recession grinds on and the unemployment rate rises, biting deeper into the ranks of middle- and upper-income workers, even here values tumble. In California the recession shows no signs of abating.

Other area counties are suffering terribly, especially San Bernardino, the hardest hit of all. Despite record losses in home values there from 2007 to 2008, home values countywide dropped another 40% in June 2009 over June 2008. The median home value in San Bernardino in now $135,000, almost unbelievable…


Outlying areas have been very hard hit. Twentynine Palms in down 45% to a median $80,000.Yucaipa and Yucca Valley are down 24 and 26% respectively to $215,000 and $100,000 median. The High Desert is a disaster area: Apple Valley is down over 50% to a median of around $88,000; Victorville is down 40% to a median of about $95,000. The good news there? Hundreds of homes are being sold…Sales are very brisk at these prices, so maybe the bottom is near. It must be. These prices are below replacement value, meaning we can’t build homes for these prices.

The City of San Bernardino itself has only one ZIP with a median value of over $100,000 and that is 92407 at $140,000, a drop of 31% over last year. The rest of the city has plunged in value nearly 50% to closer to $58,000 and, while some homes are being sold, sales are by no means brisk. This is the New Appalachia where SoCal poverty is concentrated and food stamps are common currency. This is where our charity dollars should be going.

More affluent areas, as always, are doing better, but still dropping. Upland has dropped 6% in 91784 to $471,000 median and to $259,000 in 91786, down 13%. Rancho Cucamonga has dropped over 25% in all areas to a median now of around $300,000 and in 91739 almost $400,000. But, the housing stock here is mainly new and high quality. This is a tremendous dip. Rialto is down 32% to $198,000. Colton is down 42% to $110,000. Chino Hills, also with newer housing stock, has dropped only 6% to a median $298,000, again undeard of… Ontario’s hightest median value is $235,000, down almost 30% over last year. Fontana is down around 35% to $122,000 in 92335, to $185000 in 92337 and down 18% to $260,000 in 92336. Again, in Fontana hundreds of homes are being sold, many below replacement value.

Really, there’s no good news in San Bernardino County.

November 2008: L.A. County Home Prices


Well, as we’ve all been hearing, it’s been another bad month for the nation and for L.A. County. Prices are heading–you guessed it!–DOWN, DOWN, DOWN.  In fact, year over year, prices have fallen 35.7% countywide. The median home value is now $340,000.

Of course, the drops are greater in some areas than in others. In general, working class areas are most likely to show the greatest declines and more affluent areas the least. Statisticians are telling us that until now lower-priced areas have lost 44% of value while upper-income areas have lost 22%. That is a reflection of the ability of the rich to cushion the blow. They have more resources to call upon when times get tough. Lower-income folks are more likely to live paycheck to paycheck with no real savings in case of a downturn.

Thus, we note that in our San Gabriel Valley Azusa is down 30.9% to a median of $280,000; Altadena is down 28% to a median $420,000. Baldwin Park dropped 31.9% to $274,000, Covina is down over 30% to $330,000, Duarte has dipped a whopping 42% to a median of $280,000, and La Puente is down over 32% to a median of about $275,000. Pomona is still Heartbreak City for our area, though, with drops of 49%  and 40%  to a median of $230,000 in 91766 and 91767,  and to  44.6% in 91768 to a median of  $210,000. This is truly horrible and is producing a sea of human misery.

Still and all, other areas of L. A. County are doing far worse. In one ZIP in Palmdale prices are down 64.9% to a median of an unbelieveable $80,000. Other Palmdale areas clock in a medians of $253,000 and $129,000. With prices like these, you know that remaining home owners are going to bail either letting their homes go to short sale or into foreclosure.

The lower-priced homes are now in many areas priced below replacement value. So, in other words, prices cannot fall too much further.  So the previous situation of lower-priced homes taking the greater hit in home values  we are told, is about to change. This downturn is so severe and so intense that now the wealthy are also starting to lose their homes in greater numbers.

Some of that is due to true economic hardship. After all, the wealthy are the business and shop owners whose sales are down the drain and the executives who are being downsized. Eventually, with businesses failing, they run out of money as well.  And, as homes in more affluent areas begin to lose value, many owners question themselves: why am I sitting here paying on a $600,000 mortgage when my home is now worth $350,000? Sometimes it’s a business decision to let the home go…It is cheaper to rent the same house, perhaps as much as half as cheap, especially in good areas which have many foreclosures, such as Corona or Rancho Cucamonga. Fear not, though, these massive foreclosures are coming to L.A. County as well.

Areas in L.A. County which until now have maintained are starting onto that downward spiral. In our area,  affluent Arcadia has declined 22.5 % in 91006 to $420,000 while 91007 is down 26.2 to $830,000. These are significant drops.  San Marino with only a few sales is also down 25.5% to a median $1,250,000.  Sierra Madre is down 24.6% to a median of $660,000. Glendora 91741 is down 31.8% to a median of $505,000 while 91740, only partly in Glendora school district, is down 18.7% to $386,000 median.

San Dimas is down only by 9.8% to a median of $508,000. LaVerne is down only 13.9% to a $439,000 median.  Claremont is down 9.6% to $520,000. These postings show these cities are holding their value well in comparison to the rest of the county. For this, east Valley residents can be grateful despite losing whopping amounts of equity in their homes.

What does the near future hold for our county? I’m afraid it’s more drops in value, especially among the more affluent areas.  Until January 9th, Freddie and Fannie have declared a moratorium on foreclosures both to get everyone through Christmas as well as to allow banks to catch up. Once the moratorium period is over, we will see a tsunami of foreclosures right here where we live. Even a new President will be powerless to stop it.

Where Are Those REPOs?

For Southern Californians, the short answer: right where you live.

In the San Gabriel Valley, homes which are REOs, short pays, NODs, short sales or corporate owned are everywhere. In fact, at this point, they are the only properties selling and often even these bargain properties offered far below the prices they sold for just one or two years ago are on the market 100 days or more.

Just where are these properties? Here’s a short list compiled in haste from the Multiple Listing Service [MLS] access to which I offer on my website

City Properties Range
Arcadia 12 $450000-$1,500,000
Azusa 70 $179,900-$914,900
Claremont 15 $249,000-$579,000
Covina 77 $215,000-$675,000
Duarte 22 $261,000-$610,000
Glendora 17 $300,000-$855,000
La Verne 17 $212,500-$749,000
Monrovia 23 $320,000-$649,000
Pasadena 77 $185,000-$790,000
Rancho Cucamonga >319 $105,000-$1,290,000
San Dimas 15 $330,000-$1,400,000
Sierra Madre 1 $358000
Upland 88 $135,000-$999,900

Look at those prices!

These are amazing prices that we haven’t seen in this area for literally years. $105,000? Wow! Many of the cheapest listed here are one-bedroom condos, but, still, a year ago even they were commanding prices over $200,000 or $300,000 pretty much everywhere.

Pasadena ,by far the largest city, so has a very large number of foreclosures. That $185,000, by the way, is a studio. Still. Rancho is also a large city, but 319? That is what it is like in San Bernardino/Riverside County, as delineated here previously. To my mind, some of the most undervalued homes and so the best deals are in Covina which with 77 repos is out of step with the other foothill communities. Azusa is another surprise.

Most of the repos concentrate at the lower end, but there are some truly beautiful homes in the mix, many with 5 bedrooms and commanding views of the valley. Despite these prices, however, many of these homes listed at seemingly rock-bottom prices are not selling.

Right now is a fabulous time to buy. Among these repos are some fantastic values which will not get any better. Like anything else, the buyer who gets the great deal needs to do his homework and plod through those 319 listings in Rancho to find the real gems.