Has Lode real estate market reached the bottom?

February 22, 2012 01:39 pm

Local real estate experts say there are signs the market has reached the bottom.

The demand for low priced properties has increased since the end of last year, according to Dennis Dahlin, president of the Tuolumne County Association of Realtors. He said there have been more multiple offers on homes priced below $150,000.

“There seems to be more demand for competitively priced properties,” he said. “I’d like to think it’s a trend, but it’s too early to tell.”

He said there has been an increase of interest from people and groups looking to buy commercial property as well.

With appraisers still posting declining price assumptions on most properties, however, he said there will have to be far fewer foreclosures and short sales on the market before overall home prices will rise.

“A lot of people like to wait and maker sure we’re at the bottom,” he said.

Foreclosures statewide were at their lowest level in four years by the end of 2011, according to the foreclosure tracking firm RealtyTrac.

There were 101 foreclosures in Tuolumne County last month with one in every 309 housing units falling into foreclosure. The number was higher in Calaveras County, where there were 175 foreclosed properties last month and one in 160 homes were foreclosed.

Foreclosures in Tuolumne County declined by nearly 12 percent last year and held steady in Calaveras County.

While total foreclosure rates in the Mother Lode were still high compared to years past, they were moderate compared to other parts in the state.

Stanislaus County, for example, had 1,257 foreclosures in January, with one in every 143 homes falling into foreclosure, and San Joaquin County had 1,668 foreclosures last month with one in every 140 homes foreclosed.

In all of California, there were 51,584 homes foreclosed, with one in every 265 homes falling into foreclosure.

Statewide, home sales were supported in part by buyers grabbing cheap homes and taking advantage of foreclosures and low prices.

According to the Tuolumne County Assessor’s Office, average property values fell from a peak of $332,000 in 2006 to $190,000 in 2010, the most recent year data is available.

In California last month there were 28,111 new and existing homes sold, with sales down 25.5 percent from December, but up 1.5 percent from January of last year, according to the San Diego-based real estate tracking firm DataQuick.

The median sales price last month was down 4.1 percent from December at $236,00, and about half the peak price of $484,000 set in early 2007 before the housing crash.

According to DataQuick, the median sales price has dropped year-over-year for the past 16 months.

“The higher-end sales have slowed in recent months as many struggle to qualify for loans and others just sit tight,” said DataQuick President John Walsh in a report released earlier this month.

Mortgage payments also contributed to falling prices, with a typical payment at $893, the lowest rate since 1988 when adjusted for inflation.

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