Home sales in the West surge 17 percent in March | VailDaily.com

Home sales in the West surge 17 percent in March

AP Business Writer
FILE - In this April 5, 2010 photo, Joann Weber, of Midtown Realty, changes the sign from "Sale Pending" to "Sold" at a home that just sold in Palo Alto, Calif. The National Association of Realtors releases existing home sales for March on Thursday, April 22, 2010. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma, File)

Home sales surged 17 percent in the West last month, as buyers scrambled to take advantage of low mortgage rates and qualify for tax credits that expire at the end of this month.

The median price in the 13-state Western region was $209,400, down almost 8 percent from a year ago, the National Association of Realtors said Thursday.

Nationwide, by contrast, sales of previously occupied homes rose almost 20 percent from March of last year, without adjusting for seasonal factors. The median sales price was flat at $170,700,

Shoppers who have been on the hunt for some time can hear the clock ticking and are trying to make offers before the tax credits run out. Even some people who weren’t planning to buy are jumping in, said Kathi McLeod, sales manager for Windermere Real Estate in Boise, Idaho.

First-time buyers can get a federal tax break of up to $8,000, while current homeowners who relocate to a new home get up to $6,500.

“Last year, a lot of buyers were afraid to follow through with a purchase because of the economy and the extent that lending had changed,” she said. “What we’re seeing now is confidence, as well as acceptance of what types of loan programs are available.”

Sales across most major Western metros improved in March, according to The Associated Press-Re/Max Monthly Housing Report, which tallies all home sales in the metropolitan statistical areas. The report, also released Thursday, counts sales filed by all real estate agents, regardless of company affiliation.

All but one of the 13 Western cities tracked in the report saw annual sales increases last month. Boise and Seattle both posted gains of more than 50 percent, according to the report. Los Angeles was the only major city that saw a decline in sales, off 7 percent.

San Francisco saw the sharpest gain in median price, up nearly 38 percent to $489,000. The city also had the lowest average number of days on the market, which dropped by about a quarter from last year to 49 days.

Sales in San Francisco climbed nearly 9 percent from a year ago.

“Buyer confidence has increased dramatically from last year,” said Sue Schultes, an agent with Paragon Real Estate Group in San Francisco. “When things are uncertain, people have a difficult time making a decision. We’re now noticing many houses selling over list prices with multiple offers and a lot more movement in the luxury market.”

In Los Angeles, Julie Kryukova, an agent with 360 Realty, said she expects there will be a jump in sales this month too as buyers grab up foreclosures and other financially distressed properties.

“People are ready to make that last-minute dash and take advantage of these deals,” Kryukova said.

While Los Angeles saw an average decline in sales, swanky pockets of the city including West Hollywood, Santa Monica and Marina del Rey are seeing sales up as much as 300 percent from last year, she said.

Though sales in Boise were strong, the city had the biggest price decline among the Western cities in the AP-Re/Max report. With a drop of 14 percent to $149,900, prices are now back to 2003-levels.

“Now we see affordability back to what it was. Inventory has grown, prices are dropping and investors are back in the market with all of these movers and first-time buyers,” said Van States, an agent with Keller Williams Realty in Boise. “It’s shaping up to be a great selling season.”

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