$635,000 price for O.C. homes is smallest gain since 2015

Higher mortgage rates failed to put a damper on the local housing market, with both home prices and sales showing gains in January from year-ago levels, CoreLogic reported Monday. But the gains were smaller than usual, and some communities may be seeing signs of a slight market cool-down, local market observers said.

Still, many agents report that a lack of homes for sale, high demand and bidding wars remain the norm for much of Orange County.

The median price of an Orange County home – or price at the midpoint of all sales – was $635,000 in January, rising 2.6 percent from January 2016 levels. Although that marks the 57th consecutive month of year-over-year price gains, it’s the smallest home-price appreciation rate in the past 15 months.

Mortgage rates rose to 4.3 percent after the presidential election, up from 3.5 percent, then leveled off just under 4.2 percent in recent weeks.

Sales, meanwhile, rose 3.1 percent from year-ago levels to 2,351 transactions, the highest total for a January since 2013.

Both prices and sales dropped from December levels, typical this time of year since the sales reflect escrows opened during the slow Thanksgiving-Christmas holiday season. Price and sales drops have occurred in 27 of the past 29 January months.

The trend is similar for the region as a whole.

The median Southern California home price was up 5.3 percent to $455,000, CoreLogic reported, while sales regionwide increased 5.4 percent to 15,422 homes. Prices and sales were up year over year in all six counties in the region.

Taken as a whole, “the current Orange County housing market is scorching hot,” market watcher Steve Thomas of ReportsOnHousing.com said Monday in his latest report.

Thomas reported the entire inventory of existing homes on the market could theoretically sell in 50 days based on the number of escrows opened in the past month. Anything under 60 days is considered a seller’s market.

“We are back to the bidding war…

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