Sept SoCal Home Sales – You Can’t Read the Headlines!

Posted on October 20th, 2008 in Daily Mortgage/Housing News - The Real Story, Mr Mortgage's Personal Opinions/Research

Today, the daytime financial market variety shows are simply giddy over the DataQuick report saying ‘SOUTHERN CA HOME SALES ARE UP 65% OVER LAST YEAR’.

Sorry to rain on the pom-pom parade, but how I see it home sales worsened yet again last month. Let me explain.

First off you can’t compare last year with this year. It would be like comparing loan originations. It is a meaningless analysis. However, you can compare the past three months, which were essentialy flat from near 40k statewide in July, to 37k in Aug and back to 40k in July. So, let’s start here.

Now, let’s talk about real ‘organic’ sales and not foreclosure-related sales, as organic sales are at all-time multi-decade lows.

In Sept 2007, there were 12,455 sales of which 12.6% (1570) were foreclosure related. This means last Sept there were 10,885 ‘organic’ sales, which is ‘me selling a home to you’.

In Sept 2008, total sales were in fact up 65% in SoCal over last year at 20,497. But, 50% were foreclosure related meaning only 10,249 organic sales went off. This is significant and worse than a year ago.  Also, remember that last Sept sales plunged by 35% from August due to lenders pulling out of the jumbo market all at the same time so it was not a tough month to beat.

As a point of reference, in Sept 2006 22,654 homes sold in SoCal of which about 4% were foreclosure related leaving approximately 21,500 organic sales. In Sept 2005, 31,740 sold with 30,500 being organic. Now those are robust September sales figures. Ex-foreclosure related sales,  Sept 2008 SoCal organic sales are down 66% from three years ago. This goes to show in living color how bad off the housing market actually is.

Organic sales have plummeted as prices have fallen because with values down 40%-70% across the state, so many are underwater. When you owe more than your home is worth you can’t sell or refinance. You are stuck.

With so many underwater and unable to move, who are the buyers? They are investors, first-time buyers and renters, which have historically been the weakest segments which is evident by the weak numbers. The all-important move-up buyer is nowhere to be found because with all of the exotic loan programs gone, they can’t even afford to re-buy the home they live in now.

Additionally, more than 10k homes in SoCal entered the foreclosure process or were actually foreclosed upon during the month of Sept meaning the problem is getting worse because more inventory is coming in than going out. As a matter of fact over the past six months, over 40k borrowers received a Notice-of-Default each month and 80% of those will end up losing their home to foreclosure.

Lastly, prices fell a sharp 7.6% in a single month, which puts even more people underwater in their homes and exponentially increases the chance of loan default across all paper types.

Please show me a month where organic sales rise, prices stay steady or rise and foreclosures stay steady or fall and I will call that a ‘better’ report. This surely is not it.

Even the CEO of Dataquick in the story below cautions, “You have to view last month’s sales in the proper context.”

Don’t get me wrong, I am glad to see foreclosures selling the way they are but I would be much happier to see sales flat and foreclosures slowing significantly.  But, as prices fall mortgage defaults and foreclosures will stay with us.

I also am very concerned about the majority of those who purchased, refinanced or added a second mortgage between 2003 and 2007 who now find themselves underwater, unable to make a move while values crash around them. I am talking about ‘Prime’ borrowers here, as negative equity being a leading contributor to loan default is not Subprime, Alt-A, Pay Option, Jumbo Prime or Prime specific.

Never underestimate the effect that plunging values has on ALL home owners. While 10k buyers in SoCal got a ‘great deal’ by buying a foreclosure last month, millions lost significant value in their property and were pushed into a negative equity or deeper negative equity position and hundreds of thousands will ultimately default from such a violent, long lasting move downward in prices. -Best Mr Mortgage

Southland home sales up, prices down; foreclosures now half the market – October 20, 2008

La Jolla, CA—Southern California home sales shot up by an unprecedented 65 percent last month from the dismal, record lows of a year ago, when a credit crunch slammed the brakes on home financing. September sales also posted a rare gain over August as price cuts lured more buyers. Foreclosure resales rose to half of all transactions.

A total of 20,497 new and resale houses and condos closed escrow in the six-county Southland in September, up 5.8 percent from 19,366 in August (2008) and up 64.6 percent from 12,455 in September 2007, according to San Diego-based MDA DataQuick, a real estate information service.

Last month’s sales were the highest for any month since December 2006 and the year-over-year gain was the highest for any month in DataQuick’s statistics, which go back to 1988. However, last month’s sales were still the second-lowest for any September since 1996 and were 17 percent below the 20-year sales average for that month.

This September’s huge annual sales increase stems from the extraordinarily weak activity in September 2007, when sales were at a record low for that month. The year-ago sales plunged after the credit crunch that struck in August 2007 made “jumbo” mortgages for higher-end homes more expensive and harder to obtain. Sales were already hurting from the subprime mortgage industry meltdown earlier in 2007, which undermined demand for entry-level homes.

“The pitifully low September 2007 sales numbers weren’t tough to beat. More impressive was that this September’s sales volume bucked the seasonal norm and rose above August. Steep price declines, especially inland, have improved housing affordability quite a bit and may keep sales levels well above the record lows we saw late last year and early this year. It will depend on the severity of this economic downturn,” said John Walsh, MDA DataQuick president.

“You have to view last month’s sales in the proper context,” he cautioned. “They represent escrow closings, which reflect purchase decisions made in mid-to-late summer. That was before the dramatic worsening of the nation’s economic crisis in recent weeks. Over the next few weeks our sales data will begin to show how the meltdown in financial markets this fall has impacted housing demand.”

Bargain shopping continued to fuel the Southland market last month, with sales typically rising the most in areas where prices have dived and foreclosures have soared.

Fifty percent of all existing homes that closed escrow in September had been foreclosed on at some point in the prior year. That’s up from 45.5 percent in August and 12.6 percent in September last year.

At the county level, such foreclosure resales ranged from 36.8 percent of September resales in Orange County to 68.9 percent in Riverside County. In Los Angeles County foreclosure resales were 39.1 percent of all resales; in San Diego 47.3 percent; San Bernardino 63.1 percent and in Ventura County 44.0 percent.

The high level of foreclosure resales helped push the Southland’s median sale price down to $308,500 in September, the lowest since it was $305,000 in May 2003. Last month’s median was 6.5 percent lower than $330,000 in August and 33.2 percent lower than $462,000 in September 2007. The September median stood 38.9 percent below the peak $505,000 median reached in spring and summer of last year.

Several factors explain the sharp drop in the median price: Regionwide home price depreciation, relatively slow high-end sales, and the rising market share of foreclosure resales, which tend to sell at a discount.

Problems in the jumbo mortgage market continue to undermine high-end home sales. Before the credit crunch hit last August, 40 percent of sales were financed with jumbos, then defined as over $417,000. Last month just 13.2 percent of purchase loans were over $417,000.

MDA DataQuick is a division of MDA Lending Solutions, a subsidiary of Vancouver-based MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates. MDA DataQuick monitors real estate activity nationwide and provides information to consumers, educational institutions, public agencies, lending institutions, title companies and industry analysts.

The typical monthly mortgage payment that Southern California buyers committed themselves to paying was $1,458 last month, down from $1,566 the previous month, and down from $2,198 a year ago. Adjusted for inflation, current payments are 31.9 percent below typical payments in the spring of 1989, the peak of the prior real estate cycle. They are 44.4 percent below the current cycle’s peak in June 2006.

Indicators of market distress continue to move in different directions. Foreclosure activity is at or near record levels, financing with adjustable-rate mortgages is near the all-time low, as is financing with multiple mortgages. Down payment sizes and flipping rates are stable, non-owner occupied buying activity appears flat but might be emerging, MDA DataQuick reported.

32 Responses to “Sept SoCal Home Sales – You Can’t Read the Headlines!”

  1. am i right in figuring sept. organic sales are actually down from august’s 10554?

  2. Melissa Francis on CNBC is in awe over this. She is ready to hop a plane out to Cali and buy some houses cuz “they always come back”. She too only reads the headlines apparantly…

  3. Mr. Mortgage, I don’t understand the distinction of “organic” versus “non-organic” sales.

    It seems to me there were 20K investors or families buying homes in September versus 12K last year. Sure, half the sellers this year were banks and whatnot, but the higher sales still reflect higher demand.

    The root problem was that prices were artificially inflated by dumb lending standards. As the lending standards have sobered up (verifying income, requiring downpayments, etc.), prices have dropped to more reasonable levels and now demand is picking up.

    Considering that lenders were still doing no-doc, no-down payment loans in September 2007, but not September 2008, I’d dare say the number of real sales to strong hands is improving hugely.

    There is nothing fundamentally wrong with most Southern California real estate except its price, and that is quickly being corrected.

  4. The big problem out there is a) houses are still unaffordable as evidenced by the lack of organic buyers/sellers b) when home owners can’t freely sell their home they are at an exponentially greater risk of loan default.

    The only reason you are seeing organic sales so low is because people CAN’T sell. This is very bad.

    When respect to the 10k foreclosures sold, 60k foreclosures either entered the pipeline as notice of defaults or were actually foreclosed upon in CA in Sept. Therefore, inventories did not fall. 10k foreclosures sold is nothing. We need 50k a month selling.

    Remember folks, in Sept 2005, 75k homes sold in CA of which about 4k were foreclosure related. Now that’s a good month.

  5. A number of the foreclosed homes are being spun around 90 days post closing by investors and reselling at closer to true market prices. This churning of properties also gives a false impression of higher organic sales. The tap of organic sales is going to slow to one half of where it is today. Equity sellers are being extinguished as each month’s price declines worsens their selling environment. Just wait until $729k conforming loans drop to $625k which will hammer the market further.

  6. Oldtimer,

    I understand where you are coming from in terms of the increase in demand setting the new market price – irrelevant of whose selling. What I do understand though is that we are seeing an average price of +300 that includes bank distressed sales and organic sales. I would love to see these average prices seperated. What is the mix. I would suspect that the organic sales are in the highest demand areas with prices well above the distressed prices.

    If Mrmortgage is correct and there are indeed a new 10 000 houses entering the market this month it probably means the distressed regions of the country is widening. This will slowly creep into the areas where their are more organic sales and whack those prices which will cause the average price to drop substantially.

    The fact is that the effect of your neighbours fireprice sale lags the actual closed sales. This increased demand may show that there is affordability creeping back into the market but it could also be a false bottom that could turn around and bite you on the bum. It could be people trading down and some speculation.

    These issues are highly complex – I have a different way to measure when a bottom has arrived. I ask the Estate agents if the number of buyers that walk into their office is up or down on last week.

  7. MM, nice work as usual. I may have missed it, but do you take into consideration the sale of newly constructed homes? I have to believe this constitutes a drain on the existing home market as it takes buyers out of it.

  8. I ask the Estate agents if the number of buyers that walk into their office is up or down on last week.

    And you actually trust their answer?

  9. Oldtimer’s question is a good one. Mr. Mortgage, your distinction between organic and forced sales is interesting and relevant but your intrepretation of what it means is wrong. Homeowners are still buying houses. To the homeowner, there is not much difference in a housing good if it is an REO or an organic sale from a homeowner.

  10. Hey Mr. Mortgage I have a question.

    Do homes which were bought back by the banks count as a sale in Dataquick’s database?

    Thanks in advance for your answer.

  11. I see foreclosures in our neighborhood still selling at over-inlfated prices. LOL! I wonder how many of these Foreclosure buyers are realizing that they got duped!

  12. Does anyone know where you can read the “actual” housing bill? Is there a pdf somewhere? I’m specifically trying to find the buried clause that states banks will be enforced to pay HOA’s on all their REO inventory.

  13. Anybody buying a home in California is clueless regardless if it’s a foreclosure or not, it’s like buying Enron stock in it’s final days of survival.

  14. Buyers are not walking into offices anymore, they are going online and inquiring from there. As far as whether you can trust an agents answer, it could depend on the agent. There are some honest ones out there, despite what you may believe (I am an agent myself).

    The fact is that this market is drawing some people off of the fence to buy. Call them stupid or clueless as the previous poster did, but they are buying because they think it is a good time. Some of these people have a lot of cash, so they must be doing something right.

    Foreclosure sales in my area of Big Bear, CA, only made up 20% of the closed sales last month. While it is more than last year, still well below 50%. There were 41 properties that went back to the bank in the month of Sept. and will be coming on the market soon. I just started tracking it so I don’t have much to compare it to.

  15. To all prospective knife-catchers:

    “Foreclosure” does not equal “good deal”

  16. [I]t’s like buying Enron stock in it’s final days of survival.

    Oh, now that’s just silly. When a corporation goes belly up the common stock loses all value, i.e. there is no more there there, and that’s forever.

    Real property is called real for a reason. Barring volcanoes, mega-quakes, or asteroid impact there will always be something there. Doesn’t mean it won’t be worth a mere fraction, but it will always be worth some fraction. On a long enough time line it will likely be a multiple.

    Disclosure: I have no financial interest in anything west of the Continental Divide.

  17. Examining the state as a whole is really a misleading premise. California, more than any other state, is really a collection of vastly different markets. La Jolla is not going to be nearly as impacted as the IE, so these California numbers need to be looked at more closely.

    Admittedly I have not looked too deeply into this, but I have looked at La Mesa (San Diego subburb where I grew up) and at Murrieta (where I currently live) and these markets are completely different. The vast majority of homeowners in La Mesa have been there for several years and have so much equity built up in their homes that even the unprecidented value drop does not leave them underwater. Murrieta however likely has over half of their homeowners underwater (even those who made 10-20% downpayments). Not only are people in the IE much more likely to be underwater, they are much more likely to have purchased with “creative financing” making them even more succeptable to either voluntary or involuntary foreclosure in the near future.

    Another difference which cannot be underestimated is the impact of Mello-Roos, HOAs and a tax assessor’s office which is criminally ignorant to current home values in an effort to extort outrageous sums of money from IE residents. Many newer subdivisions are being slaughtered by the double-edged sword of paying over-inflated prices for homes and incredible property taxes. When I consider the fact that even if I owned my home outright I would be paying close to $10k a year to the local govt, it makes me seriously consider walking away. To ignore this option would be very foolish.

    Expecting the govt to make a swift OR helpful move for people in the IE is silly. Considering it would take BOTH swift and helpful action to have a real impact, expecting the situation to improve anytime soon is simply foolishly optimistic. If you have doubts about your ability to continue to meet your financial obligations in the IE, make your own swift and helpful decision…walk away. You will almost certainly be better off with $20-30K in your pocket and renting than you will be draining whatever savings you may have to avoid the inevitable for a couple more years.

    Sorry for being such a pessimist, but it is time to face reality folks. You can walk now and start the healing process with some cash in your pocket or you can delay the process for a few years. It is time to look at your home as the bank looks at you, a business decision.

  18. Good point Partyboy,

    I would guess that most folks with a $500K mortgage in a $250K neighborhood will find a way to get a low $200K mortgage, assuming they like the neighborhood. The tougher call is for the people with a $300K mortgage in that same $250K neighborhood. I would guess most of those people will keep paying (is it worth disrupting your family and access to credit for $500/month?).

  19. Well all those distressed mortgages can be bailed by Hank Paulson,so no net loss to the bank-that is why they are so readily taking houses back on their books,to give to the Treasury/Fed(USA taxpayer).
    If it makes you Americans any happier,come and view properties in North West England(UK).Prices are higher and sellers are holding out,in some cases for years and if you are in the right bank and the right circle,then financing is not a problem.And Americans think they have a problem with opacity?

  20. Maria

    Don’t worry. America’s banking (and taxing standards) are catching up to Europe. We’ll be living like the Europeans in no time. Although I doubt our tax dollars will go towards any infrastructure or health care system.

  21. admin Said:
    October 20th, 2008 3:36 pm

    Remember folks, in Sept 2005, 75k homes sold in CA of which about 4k were foreclosure related. Now that’s a good month.
    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

    Now that’s funny Mr. Mortgage. Sept 2005 perhaps marked the worst possible time in history to buy a house in San Diego and other parts of CA. And you point to that as a good month.

    I think I’d rather buy in a bad month.

  22. I hate to say it, but I think our fearless leader, Mr. Mortgage is spinning us a bit here:

    “First off you can’t compare last year with this year…However, you can compare the past three months, which were all down from near 40k statewide in July, to 37k in Aug and 36k in Sept. That trend is lower.”

    For starters, dont we make fun of the NAR for their constant spin of Year over Year numbers when it shows what they want and Month over Month numbers when it doesnt? Why is Mr. Mortgage now resorting to MOM analysis?

    Second, notice how the article is for SOCAL, but his proof that the “trend is lower” is citing numbers for the WHOLE STATE…(apples vs. oranges anyone)? In SOCAL, sales for the last 3 months are 20,329 (Jul), 19,366 (Aug) and 20,497 (Sept). These sales numbers are not trending down, they are flat at worst (some would say rising).

    “Now, let’s talk about real ‘organic’ sales and not foreclosure-related sales, as organic sales are at all-time multi-decade lows.”

    So when is a sale, not a sale – when Mr. Mortgage tells us it isnt? Oldtimer and Mortgage Analyst are correct – a sale is a sale period. A buyer could care less whether it was organic or not.

    “Sept 2008 SoCal organic sales are down 66% from three years ago. This goes to show in living color how bad off the housing market actually is.”

    Hold the phone here – 3 years ago was Sept 2005 – still in the heart of the bubble. A good number of sales back then was the merry go round of flippers selling to flippers. Sales should be nowhere near where they were when the Ponzi scheme was in place. To be sure, I dont think this months sales numbers are healthy, but for Mr. Mortgage to even point this out (as if Sept 05 sales are somehow healthy) makes me question his motives.

    “Additionally, more than 10k homes in SoCal entered the foreclosure process or were actually foreclosed upon during the month of Sept meaning the problem is getting worse because more inventory is coming in than going out.”

    If you read the article and do the math, of the 20,497 sales in SOCAL in sept, about 10,300 were foreclosures. So we have 10K coming in and 10K coming out. How is that worse?

    Mr. Mortgage replied (as Admin, the 3rd comment in this thread:)

    “When respect to the 10k foreclosures sold, 60k foreclosures either entered the pipeline as notice of defaults or were actually foreclosed upon in CA in Sept. Therefore, inventories did not fall. 10k foreclosures sold is nothing. We need 50k a month selling.”

    Again, why does he cite the WHOLE STATE number (50K) on one hand but the SOCAL number (10K) on the other? Somthing isnt kosher here people!

  23. Look, you cannot get a refund for stupidity. For all who purchased these overpriced dumps, let them eat them. That is the end of the story. Hopefully, the simpleminded learned a valuable lesson, it is called “Buyer Beware.” They have to pay the price of thier own ignorance and not look to others for a free hand.

  24. I guess what I find so frustrating here in SD is that I am 31, I make damn good money for my age (2-3x what my neighbors make), I still do not feel comfortable becoming a debt slave to own a house here in PQ. Most of the people who live around me purchased in PG 15-20 years ago for under 200k. These same people’s eye bug out of their head when I tell them how much my rent it and they realize that they could not even afford to rent the home they currently live in, let alone move into another one.

    Back in my Navy days here in SD (10 years ago), I could have purchased one of these homes for 200-250k. They shot up to 800K during this last 8-10 year period. They are just now rounding the 600k mark on this down turn.

    I have been priced out of the market my entire adult life. My salary has doubled every few years and I still can not keep up with property values.

    People say these foreclosures and depressing house prices are not good for anyone. I respectfully, disagree, they are good for me and my family as well as people in my age bracket with real skills and good paying jobs.

    I am sure I could go get a house at 600k right now, I have decent credit and 12 year employment history as well as documented income well above the 6 figure mark for the last 5 years. Problem is even at this income level the payments on the loan for a house here in PQ would still be close if not over 4k a month. My rent is $2400 a month. No brainer there…

    It makes no sense for me to buy now. If the government keeps trying to prop up home prices, it will make no sense for me to buy later. This is extortion, pure and simple. A game I do not play.

    I will take my money and stay renting for now thanks. When I see prop values back around 300-400k in my neighborhood then I will be motivated to buy.

    Vive le housing crash!

  25. antispin – I appreciate the comments…I will address them shortly.

  26. I read all the posts. They are very interesting.

    I live in California and I am not willing to pay for an over-priced house. I like the climate, schools, and the access to the ocean, parks, mountains, and sometimes, the desert. But most importantly, I am here because my kids love their schools. I am retired so I can live wherever I want.

    Once the kids are grown, I will leave California. I believe home prices are inflated and although I feel that the better areas will have lower home prices, they will still be out of my price range.

    As I value smart money managers, I don’t see any in my city, county, or state. It’s spend, spend, spend. My city, county, and state have deficits always. Our state bond rating is dead last of 50 states. And California voters still vote for bonds and liberal Congressmen, like Mike Honda. People don’t seem to care who they elect.

    Builders cave in to local planning commissions to get project approvals. Whether to protect butterflies or to install public art at builder’s (read homebuyer’s) expense, builders feel compelled to comply with government officials. One developer had to buy a fire truck for a city. No wonder housing prices are so high.

    San Jose, to the environmentalists’ horror, is into massive building as they rely on property tax revenue to pay for social services, including illegal immigrant support. The city, county, and state moan that if you don’t go along with spending increases, it’s a cut. I’m disgusted.

    In my humble opinion, people have been buying overpriced homes for several years in California. It was a phoney-baloney trip to false riches. Those prices were never real as unqualified buyers pushed the price up. Now with rational lending practices, that surge of buyers shrank big time. Now the California homebuyers are starting to realize they made a mistake paying too much for this inflated real estate, but now they are trapped. Many are having buyer’s remorse.

    I bought 2 homes in Texas 3 years ago. They did not spiral up so they are not spiralling down. The value is actually up on both. You can still buy affordable living away from the gluttonous state of California.

    Low crime, jobs, and affordable homes can be found outside California anytime, and if you are patient, the same will be true within some areas of California as the phoney-baloney ramp up comes back down to pre-bubble prices (adjusted for inflation), but then you are still stuck with liberal spenders running the government and voters who put them there.

  27. Thing is the application for bailout approval is only two pages long. They really streamlined this thing to get the money into the banks hands as fast as they could.

    Who has ever heard of your companies Sales Reps getting paid before they turn in those receipts as company expenses. There will be a long trail of payments with no proof of accountability. I am trying to get a forum going for smart individuals to discuss the bailout problems.

  28. Input, you make no sense- if you could have bought at 200K 10 years ago and now its worth 600K thats a deal – your payment would probably have been 2400.00, but instead you choose to rent and wait so you can buy that same house at 300-400 ?
    BTW- PQ is over rated- nice area but way over rated.
    Yes we know we spend too much in cal. for everything, our state is in complete disarray, but cali didn’t cause this.

    As to you Sam-The real problem now, is that people who did buy 10 years ago (not simple-minded)are being affected by all this and it sucks. They didn’t deserve to have just anyone buy the house next door, only to have the person foreclosed on, now the proprty looks like crap, devaluing the community even further. You can never pick your nieghbors but at least you knew they had to make a decent living, had decent credit and a good chance there were decent people.

  29. The reasons why I did not buy back then:

    1. Last year as a 3rd class petty officer in the navy at the time. (They can’t afford 200k)
    2. Getting out soon and relocating to sac to start career at a newly funded startup.
    3. Became a single dad at the same time.
    4. All at 22.

    In 2004 the startup went bust, and I ended up back down here working for another engineering company.

    The point has simply been that regardless of how many times I have doubled my salary in the last 10 years, from my 21st (NCO in the military) to my 31st b-day (Principle QA Engineer for major CDN), the market was one very large step ahead of me in terms of price point. The properties were just not affordable not at 200k at 21 and not now at 600k at 31.

    Now that prices are coming down I an am finally seeing a light at the end of the tunnel, the government steps in (they are here to help, you know) and attempts to stop this correction back down to fundamentals.

    It is just frustrating is all…

    I live in PQ because the poway school district is one of the best in the state. It is also close enough to where I work in sorrento valley.

  30. I also suppose my sentence should have read:

    “you could have purchased one of these homes for 200-250k.”

    I could not back then, I made like 23k a year in the navy back then.

    I was merely trying to illustrate how insane things got in PQ price wise.

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