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The Southern California housing market is awakening from a slumber.

After a year of sluggish demand, more homes sold and prices perked up in March as an improving economy and short supply pushed up the median home price by $10,000, according to a new report.

But whether strong price increases will continue is uncertain, economists said. If more owners don't list their homes for sale soon, the gains could accelerate as more buyers fight over slim pickings.

On the other hand, the median price — $425,000 in March — might not be able to climb much higher, constrained by lackluster wage growth, some economists said.

“Either story is possible,” said Leslie Appleton-Young, chief economist for the California Assn. of Realtors.

For now, would-be home buyers are bidding up prices.

The Southern California median price climbed 2.4% from February to $425,000 after hovering around $415,000 since May. Home sales surged 11% in March from a year earlier — only the third gain in 18 months, real estate firm CoreLogic said Thursday.

Job growth over the last year — as well as a period of subdued price appreciation — is giving more people confidence to purchase a home in pricey Southern California, economists said.

“We have had really good job performance for a while now,” said Richard Green, director of USC's Lusk Center for Real Estate.

Real estate agent Barry Sulpor said he's seeing increased demand in the beach cities of the South Bay — an area that never really saw a slowdown like other Southern California communities.

A three-bedroom town home in El Segundo recently had 14 offers, he said. It's about to close escrow for $810,000 — $41,000 over the asking price, Sulpor said.

The “open house was standing room only,” he said.

Even some agents in communities that saw demand taper off in the last year are optimistic.

Agent Carey Chenoski said her client recently sold a three-bedroom house in San Bernardino to a couple for $15,000 over asking price. That, she said, probably wouldn't have happened last year.

“It's actually pretty strong,” the Beaumont resident said. “On my street, three houses closed in the last week or so.”

Sales rose in all six Southland counties: Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura and San Diego. L.A. County saw a 12.5% increase, while Orange County posted a 8.9% gain.

The sales boost signals a strong start to the typically busy spring selling season, and economists said they expect demand to grow in coming months.

But the continued low supply of homes for sale is worrisome, Appleton-Young said, potentially putting California further out of reach for those with modest incomes.

She said some households may have to “double or triple up” while others may think about leaving the state if prices start jumping sharply.

Los Angeles, San Diego and Orange counties have less than four months of supply, Realtor data show, compared with the six-month level that is typically considered a balanced market between buyers and sellers,

“If that inventory doesn't come online, you will see something very akin to San Francisco,” Redfin chief economist Nela Richardson said. “We are in this kind of pivotal point in L.A.”

Buyers could also balk at high prices and the market will hit a ceiling. An example of that may be emerging in pricey Orange County, the region with a median price closest to its peak before the housing bust.

The median — the point at which half the homes sold for more and half for less — was unchanged in March compared with a year earlier, as nearly 20% fewer high-cost new homes sold.

The median price for a previously owned house rose 4% from March 2014, the slowest pace among Southland counties.

“I do think demand will increase,” Green said. “But people aren't going to have the dough to spend a lot more money on houses.”

Twitter: @khouriandrew

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times

6:40 p.m. Updates with additional details.

Originally posted at 10:30 a.m.

Read more: Southern California home sales jump, prices rise in March

renters_feeling_heatThe gap between rental costs and household income is widening to unsustainable levels in many parts of the country, and the situation could worsen unless new home construction meaningfully rises, according to new research by the National Association of REALTORS®.

NAR reviewed data on income growth, housing costs and changes in the share of renter and owner-occupied households over the past five years in metropolitan statistical areas across the U.S. The findings reveal that renters are being squeezed in many metro areas throughout the country due to the disproportionate growth in rental costs to incomes. New York, Seattle and San Jose, Calif. are among the cities where combined rent growth is far exceeding wages.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, says the disparity between rent and income growth has widened to unhealthy levels and is making it harder for renters to become homeowners. “In the past five years, a typical rent rose 15 percent while the income of renters grew by only 11 percent,” he says. “The gap has worsened in many areas as rents continue to climb and the accelerated pace of hiring has yet to give workers a meaningful bump in pay.”

According to Yun, the share of renter households has been increasing and homeownership is falling. Those financially able to buy a home in recent years were insulated from rising housing costs since most take out 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with established monthly payments. Furthermore, a typical homeowners’ net worth climbs...

Read more: Renters Feeling Heat from Heightened Housing Costs

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Television Academy's 23rd Annual Hall of Fame, Los Angeles(TNS)—Media magnate Rupert Murdoch sold a house in Beverly Hills for $30 million, public records show.

Marketed outside the Multiple Listing Service last year, the property attracted interest from such Hollywood A-listers as Leonardo DiCaprio and drew multiple offers.

Murdoch ended up pulling the property off the market and sold it to his youngest son, James Murdoch, according to real estate sources not authorized to talk about the deal. The property was taken in the name of a New York limited-liability company.

Constructed in 1926, the Wallace Neff-designed house was commissioned by early film director and silent film actor Fred Niblo. MCA founder Jules Stein bought the estate from Niblo. Rupert Murdoch was the third owner.

The 8,651-square-foot two-story house, set on 3.3 acres, hugs a round motorcourt in a semicircle layout. There are 11 bedrooms and nine bathrooms.

The wooded grounds include expanses of lawn and a swimming pool.

Rupert Murdoch is founder and chief executive of News Corp. and 21st Century Fox. He owns other real estate, primarily in New York, as well as the 13-acre Moraga Vineyards estate in the Bel-Air neighborhood of Los Angeles, which he bought two years ago for $28.8 million.

James Murdoch is co-chief operating officer of 21st Century Fox.

©2015 Los Angeles Times
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

Copyright© 2015 RISMedia, The Leader in Real Estate Information Systems and Real Estate...

Read more: Hot Property: Murdoch Keeps It in the Family

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By Katie Penote

optimism_economyAmid continued strengthening in employment, consumer optimism toward the economy is growing and appears to be contributing to further improvement in overall housing sentiment, according to results from Fannie Mae’s February 2015 National Housing Survey™.

The share of respondents who believe the economy is headed in the right direction increased 3 percentage points last month to an all-time survey high of 47 percent, while the share who believes it is headed in the wrong direction decreased to 45 percent, a new survey low.

Additionally, the share who believes it would be easy to get a home mortgage today increased to a record-high 54 percent while a survey low 43 percent think it would be difficult to get a mortgage.

“Continuing improvements in consumer attitudes in this month’s National Housing Survey lend support to our expectation that 2015 will be a year of the economy dragging housing upward,” says Doug Duncan, senior vice president and chief economist at Fannie Mae. “The share of consumers who think the economy is on the right track rose to a record high since the inception of the survey nearly five years ago and for the first time exceeded the share who believes it’s on the wrong track. Consumer confidence seems to be getting a boost from employment growth. This is reflected in their views on the ease of getting a mortgage today, which also reached a survey high in February. We continue to see...

Read more: Consumers Increasingly Optimistic about Economy, Housing

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