Home sales in West jumped 9% during May


POSTED: Wednesday, June 24, 2009

LOS ANGELES » Home sales in the Western region of the country posted a 9 percent annual increase in May as homebuyers jumped on low interest rates and falling prices, according to two reports released yesterday.

Foreclosures and other distressed sales continued to drag down the median home sales price in the West. It tumbled more than 30 percent from May of last year to $197,700 — the biggest drop in any region. That helped pull the national median down nearly 17 percent to $173,000, the National Association of Realtors said.

Nationally, sales rose slightly from April to May, but were roughly 7 percent below year-ago levels.

Earlier this month the Honolulu Board of Realtors reported that Honolulu single-family home sales in May fell 10.7 percent year over year and the median sales price dropped 15.3 percent to $550,000. June numbers will come out next week.

Home sales in the West have posted annual increases every month going back to at least last summer, when many first-time homebuyers and investors began snapping up sharply discounted bank-owned properties in Arizona, Nevada and California.

The foreclosure rush has helped whittle down the number of homes on the market in metros like Los Angeles and Las Vegas, where inventory has plunged by roughly half since May 2008, according to The Associated Press-Re/Max Monthly Housing Report, released yesterday.

The trend suggests select markets could be turning around, but the recent rise in interest rates and the lingering economic dark clouds still threaten the region's recovery.

“;Yes, sales have increased and inventory has come down, but there's still a tremendous amount of downward pressure on prices,”; said Chris Heller, agent-owner of Keller Williams Realty in the northern San Diego suburb of Del Mar.