Home Sales in West Rise in February

By Beacon Staff

LOS ANGELES – Home sales edged 3 percent higher in the Western region of the country last month, as many buyers moved to lock in deals in time to qualify for government tax credits.

Foreclosed homes and other sharply discounted properties continued to drive sales in many markets in the 13-state region, particularly in California, Arizona and Nevada. The median price fell by nearly 10 percent to $207,900.

And the region appeared dodge the dampening effects of winter weather seen elsewhere in the country.

“We had our best February ever in Anchorage,” said Ed Heidel, president of Century 21 North Homes Realty in Seattle, which also has offices in Alaska and Oregon.

Nationally, sales rose nearly 8 percent from February last year, without adjusting for seasonal factors, the National Association of Realtors said Tuesday. The median price declined nearly 2 percent to $165,100.

While the supply of homes on the market rose nationally, in many Western markets there is a shortage. The supply of homes on the market in the West in February stood at 6.5 months, down from 8 months a year earlier, according to the NAR.

In addition, the inventory of homes under priced under $500,000 in major markets in California has plummeted, constraining sales, Lawrence Yun, the trade group’s chief economist, said Tuesday.

In markets such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas and Honolulu, the roster of available homes fell 30 percent or more in February from where it was a year ago, according to The Associated Press-Re/Max Monthly Housing Report, also released Tuesday.

“We’re generating more sales, but our listing inventory is dropping pretty significantly,” said Colleen Gunderson, broker-owner of Century 21 All Star Realtors in Phoenix.

That could help propel prices higher, she added.

Sales improved in February across many major Western metros, according to the AP-Re/Max report, which tallies all home sales in the metropolitan statistical areas. The report counts sales filed by all real estate agents, regardless of company affiliation.

Seven cities registered annual sales increases last month: Boise, Idaho, Honolulu, Seattle, Albuquerque, N.M., Phoenix, Portland, Ore., and Las Vegas.

Five metros posted annual sales declines: Denver, Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, and Anchorage.

Some highlights from the region:

—Sharpest price gain: San Francisco, where the median price posted an annual increase of about 28 percent to $425,000.

—Biggest sales gain: Sales in Boise jumped nearly 42 percent from a year ago. The metro’s median home price dropped nearly 14 percent from a year ago to $138,000.

—Largest sales decline: Denver saw sales drop nearly 9 percent from a year ago, while the median sale price surged 17 percent to $202,500.

—Steepest price drop: The median home sales price in Las Vegas tumbled nearly 16 percent from a year ago to $121,000. Sales rose 11 percent from a year earlier.

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