OC Register | Coronavirus Rebound: SoCal home escrows jump, among top 6 in US

By Johnathan Lansner | June 2020

AP Photo/Mark Humphrey
By | jlansner@scng.com | Orange County Register

Southern California house hunters are swiftly returning to action, but transaction levels still remain below 2019’s buying pace, according to one analysis.

In Los Angeles and Orange counties, pending sales, or escrows, of existing homes jumped sharply, up 66.7% from a month ago — the fifth-largest gain among 27 big U.S. markets studied by Zillow. Still, escrows are off 31% from a year ago.

Low mortgage rates, fewer house-hunting restrictions and reinvigorated buyers pushed up the number of signed sales contracts as of May 23, according to Zillow’s study of brokers’ listings services. The bounce in contracts signed came after a near stall during the April lockdown.

Newly listed properties in the two counties are up 28.5% in a month, but total inventory is 29% below that of a year earlier.

A thin supply of housing options pushed the LA-OC median listing price to $890,040, up 3.7% in a month, and up 6.8% in a year, the third-largest 12-month gain among 35 markets tracked.

In Riverside and San Bernardino counties, pending sales rose 60% from a month ago — the sixth-largest gain among 27 big markets. Escrows are now down only 2.7% from last year.

New listings rose 12.5% in a month, but inventory is 29.6% below last year.

The Inland Empire’s status as the region’s spot for housing bargain hunters likely aided the sales recovery. The median list price of $428,719 was up 2% in a month and 2.1% in a year.

Closed sales are important to watch, too, as some buyers are having difficulty finishing planned purchases this spring.

April’s closings, including new homes in LA-OC, were off 35% vs. a year earlier, according to DQNews. Before the pandemic lockdown, the market had seen 3% sales growth over the previous 12 months. In the Inland Empire, April closed sales were down at a 26% annual pace after gaining 5% in the previous 12 months.

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