A faint light at the end of the real estate tunnel


Two years after the number of unsold homes began to rise and a year after prices began to slide, the local real estate market is showing the first signs of what could become a rebound, according to agents and others in the industry.

Homeowners who sold their houses this spring were able to do so in an average of just under two months, according to data from the Southwest Riverside County Association of Realtors, which represents most local agents. The time-on-market figure, a key statistic, rose from 17 days in the March-to-June period of 2004 to 53 days in the same four months of 2006, but has stabilized, edging up to just 57 days in the last four months. Longer lags can indicate that the economy isn’t bringing in enough new residents to replace the ones leaving or that sellers are asking too much and may have to drop their prices.

Other local agents have said two months is slightly higher than average, but still within normal range. Swanson said sellers have taken several months to get used to the fact that most houses aren’t appreciating at the 20 percent to 30 percent annual rates of 2003 and 2004. Until late last year, many were asking for $20,000 or $30,000 more than most buyers were willing to pay in the slowing market.

As a result, buyers held off, leaving houses to sit on the market for longer. Local sellers who cut their price by $20,000 have often been able to sell their houses in just a couple of weeks, agents and sellers said.

That’s one reason prices have fallen from 2 to 20 percent in most Southwest County neighborhoods. The price of a typical existing home in Temecula has fallen about 8 percent in the last year to $435,000, according to June figures from DataQuick Information Systems, a research firm. Prices have fallen 3 percent to $385,000 in Menifee and 16 percent to about $425,000 in Murrieta.

By: CHRIS BAGLEY, North County Times


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