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Once Common Loan Products Not So Common in Southern California

The Southern California housing market continues to inch slowly toward recovery with a 5.1 percent increase in home sales year-over-year in April and the first year-over-year price increase reported in 16 months, according to ""DataQuick,"":http://www.dqnews.com/Articles/2012/News/California/Southern-CA/RRSCA120516.aspx a San Diego-based analytics firm.

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However, the market still relies heavily on investors as credit remains tight. Previously common mortgage loan products continue to make up a much smaller percentage of the market than they did over the last several years, according to DataQuick.

""Investor and cash buying are still unusually robust,"" said John Walsh, president of DataQuick. ""The jumbo loan market has yet to recover, and the use of plain-vanilla adjustable-rate mortgages, or ├â┬ó├óÔÇÜ┬¼├ï┼ôARMs,' remains far below normal.""

ARMs made up just 7.1 percent of all Southland home loans for the month of April. While this is 6.4 percent higher than the previous month, ARMs have accounted for 36 percent of all home loans since 2000.

Jumbo loans ├â┬ó├óÔÇÜ┬¼├óÔé¼┼ô loans for amounts higher than the previous conforming loan limit, $417,000 ├â┬ó├óÔÇÜ┬¼├óÔé¼┼ô made up a much higher percentage of loans than ARMs,

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and in fact, the 18.9 percent market share taken by jumbo loans in April was the highest share the loan type has claimed since December 2007.

April's short-term high is less than half the average rate leading up to the housing crisis in August 2007 when jumbo loans made up 40 percent of home loans.

FHA loans are also uncharacteristically low, making up 29.3 percent of April home sales, which is the lowest rate recorded since August 2008.

At the same time, DataQuick reports cash purchases are double their historic average rates.
Absentee buyers, which DataQuick defines as ""investors and some second-home purchasers"" made up 27.8 percent of Southland home sales in April. This is down from the record high of 29.9 percent recorded in February 2011 but remains well above the 17 percent average recorded since 2000.

The median home price in Southern California rose 3.6 percent in April to $290,000, the highest recorded median price since December 2010.

""The housing market continued its painfully slow crawl back toward normalcy last month,"" said John Walsh, president of DataQuick.

According to DataQuick, the rise in median price is indicative of a tapering off in the share of foreclosed home sales and a simultaneous increase in purchases in coastal markets, where prices are inherently higher.

Sales in the high-end markets of Los Angeles, Orange, Sand Diego, and Ventura counties increased from 68 percent in April 2011 to 71.5 percent in April 2012.

Home sales appear to be improving, though they remain 21 percent below their April average since 1988. April marked four consecutive months of home sales increases as well as increases in eight out of the past nine months.

About Author: Krista Franks Brock

Krista Franks Brock is a professional writer and editor who has covered the mortgage banking and default servicing sectors since 2011. Previously, she served as managing editor of DS News and Southern Distinction, a regional lifestyle publication. Her work has appeared in a variety of print and online publications, including Consumers Digest, Dallas Style and Design, DS News and DSNews.com, MReport and theMReport.com. She holds degrees in journalism and art from the University of Georgia.
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