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LA home prices plateaued in 2019—but they could keep climbing in 2020

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The median sale price in the city of Los Angeles last year? $817,000

Liz Kuball

Los Angeles home prices soared over the last decade, but in 2019 the market finally cooled off a bit, according to data from real estate data tracker Property Shark.

The median sale price in Los Angeles County inched from $632,500 to $638,000 during the year, rising less than a full percentage point. In the city of Los Angeles, prices climbed only a little more sharply. The yearly median price in 2018 was $802,500; In 2019, it was $817,000—a 1.81 percent bump.

Those relatively minor gains are a change from the rapid pace of price growth that prospective buyers have had to contend with in recent years. Median sale prices went up at least 5 percent each year between 2015 and 2018. In just four years leading up to 2019, the price of a typical home rose more than $110,000 countywide.

Jordan Levine, deputy chief economist at the California Association of Realtors says that price growth in the Los Angeles area was most sluggish in the first half of the year, but accelerated quickly in the summer and fall, as low mortgage interest rates drove up demand from buyers.

In some Los Angeles-area cities, the cost of buying continued to rocket upward in 2019, regardless of a slow start to the year. Nine cities saw annual median price gains of at least 10 percent, including Inglewood (15.22 percent), Palos Verdes Estates (13.03 percent), Huntington Park (12.55 percent), and Compton (10.94 percent).

Leading the way was the LA River-adjacent city of Bell, where prices rose 17.01 percent in 2019—from $385,000 to $450,500. Over the last five years, the city’s median sale price has swollen by 45.9 percent, a gain surpassed only by Compton (53.23 percent) and Inglewood (66.67 percent).

On the flip side, sale prices actually fell in some parts of the county last year. In 28 cities, the median price was lower in 2019 than in 2018. They include Malibu (13.7 percent drop), Calabasas (7.52 percent drop), El Monte (5.46 percent drop), and Redondo Beach (3.27 percent drop).

Levine predicts that prices will rise “moderately” in 2020, barring another big interest rate shift.

That probably won’t be welcome news to prospective homebuyers, given that prices in Los Angeles are already as high as they’ve ever been.

Jeff Tucker, an economic analyst with Zillow, also forecasts “slow and steady price growth” throughout the year—though he says that at some point, the cost of purchasing a home could become astronomical enough to shrink the pool of potential buyers.

“People just won’t qualify for mortgages at a certain point,” he says.