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Only Rich People Can Afford to Buy Houses in SoCal Now

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Usually, spring is the time to sell a house, but this year's season has gotten off to a bumpy start. While the median sale price of houses in SoCal jumped up to $400,000—"the market's highest level since February 2008"—the number of sales dropped for the sixth month in a row, says the LA Times, based on numbers from DataQuick. How low? Just 17,638 houses sold in the six-county area in March; that's the second-lowest total for the usually-bustling month since 1995. Analysts for DataQuick attribute the drop in sales to several factors, among them the double-whammy of high prices and stringent lending standards that have priced some people out of the market entirely, the decrease in sales to investors, and the "thin" inventory of houses for sale. This is creating what one retired real estate agent called the "hangover of the housing crash." The upshot is that middle class homebuyers are screwed out of most reasonable options while rich homebuyers bid each other up ever higher on expensive houses.

An overall rise in home prices means that lower-priced houses are creeping up as well, but the low number of actual sales suggests that there aren't people who can afford them at such prices: Sales of $500,000 or less decreased by about 24 percent. This climate is making it harder for most homebuyers, but especially first-timers, a rep for the California Association of Realtors says.

But people buying at the higher end of the market are doing juuuust fine. Sales of residences for $800,000 or more increased 12 percent, with bidding wars and the sale of million-dollar houses rising. In LA, nearly one-fifth of homes on the market are listed for $1 million or more, and in a select few fancy 'hoods, it's like the recession never even happened.

And remember: renting isn't that much easier!
· Southern California median home price jumped to $400,000 in March [LAT]
· Southland home prices surged but sale plumeted [LAT]