Southern California Housing Chilled by Virus

Southern California

There were 8,837 new escrows in the last 30 days, the lowest count since January 2014.

Coronavirus fallout has slashed Southern California house hunting to the lowest level in six-plus years, according to one real estate economist, Steve Thomas.

It’s been a wild few weeks for California housing amid a battle to halt the pandemic’s spread. As business limits grew statewide, at least 1.5 million Californians filed for unemployment benefits.

ReportsOnHousing tracks brokers’ listing services to gauge how many existing homes are for sale and pending sales contracts. The latest results, as of April 2, show both buyers and sellers extremely cautious.

My trusty spreadsheet, filled with that data through April 2, found these market conditions …

Demand: 8,837 new escrows opened in the previous 30 days. That’s down 30% in two weeks and down 33% in a year. The last time it was lower? January 2014.

Supply: 24,107 homes listed on the market, up 0.4% in two weeks but down 31% in a year. It’s the smallest inventory since November 2018.

Selling speed: “Market time” estimating days from listing to escrow was 82 — up 25 days in two weeks and up three days in a year.

ReportsOnHousing author Steve Thomas says the buying drop is expected in a time of economic uncertainty. He says the good news is the supply of homes remains historically low. That could facilitate a quick rebound when the crisis ends.

“Homeowners are waiting for this to be over. There is no panic selling. I knew we would have a demand problem, but the supply (shortage) issue has continued,” he said.

The ability of homes to be sold face-to-face was at first severely limited by “stay at home” mandates. But then a week ago industry sales procedures were given modest freedoms when real estate was reclassified as an “essential” service and not subject business limitations.

County by county …

Los Angeles County: 3,449 new escrows, down 31% in two weeks and down 35% in a year; 8,591 listings, down 0.7% in two weeks and down 33% in a year; market time was up to 75 days and up 23 days in two weeks and off two days in a year.

Orange County: 1,581 new escrows, down 34% in two weeks and down 35% in a year; 4,198 listings, up 0.9% in two weeks and down 39% in a year; market time was up to 80 days and up 28 days in two weeks but down five days in a year.

Riverside County: 2,126 new escrows, down 29% in two weeks and down 28% in a year; 6,808 listings, up 0.2% in two weeks and down 26% in a year; market time was up to 96 days and up 28 days in two weeks and three days higher in a year.

San Bernardino County: 1,681 new escrows, down 27% in two weeks and down 30% in a year; 4,510 listings, up 2.4% in two weeks and down 21% in a year; market time was up to 80 days and up 23 days in two weeks and up nine days in a year.

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