Positive Signs for Valley Housing Market
Home sales are soaring in Riverside County.
February sales rose by nearly six percent compared to February 2011.
And good news for the desert, real estate experts say the slow, steady recovery appears to be here to stay.
They see other positive signs for a growing local economy and housing market.
Here in the desert more signs say sold--pointing a slow recovery in the market.
"One great measure of that is that for the past several months, the number of distressed sales, bank owned sales and short sales where sellers are selling the house for less than they owe on it, those sales are going down as a percentage of the whole," said Greg Berkemer.
Berkemer, the executive director with the California Desert Association of Realtors says that means a healthier housing market with more fair market value sales.
Looking at associations local numbers, the percentage of short sales was 48 percent this year--much better than last year's 56 percent.
The selling price remained about the same.
Economist Kevin Cochrane says last month's multi-billion dollar settlement by five banks also played a role in February's home sales.
"It tells me that the settlement reached in this robo-signing case, has really freed up a lot of home inventory that banks were holding back until they could settle that case," said Cochrane, College of the Desert professor of economics.
Another reason for more sales? Officials say the extra day because of the leap year.
But there was another good sign to economists.
"The fact that a third of these purchases were done with cash, tells me that there's a lot of investors and people sitting on the sidelines that are coming back into the market now, because they didn't require financing, so as a consequence it tells me that people are a little more optimistic," said Cochrane.
The housing market has been tough in the valley for over half a decade, but optimism and sales may be on the rebound.
"But if you notice just driving down the streets during this winter, there are more cars, there are more events in town, there are more weekends when the hotels are full, the restaurants are full, so I think it's going to show in hindsight when we get to add up all the numbers together to have been a very solid productive season for this desert," said Berkemer.
The Desert Association of Realtors executive director said if anything will slow down the market, it's election season.
Berkemer says we always see people stop buying, and wait to see who wins.