Hot LA housing market held back by tight supply

Prices are soaring again in Southern California, thanks to strong demand and very weak supply. Sales are up across the region, and in Los Angeles, in particular. March sales in LA were up 12.5 percent from a year ago, according to CoreLogic, and the median price of a house sold, at $476,500, was a gain of 9.5 percent from last year.

"Sales have been hampered by low inventory, especially in the lower price ranges, rising prices and lingering credit hurdles," said Andrew LePage, CoreLogic analyst. "Price gains over the past two years could trigger substantially more inventory in the months ahead, and that could support higher sales and tame home price appreciation."

Los Angeles
David Sucsy | Getty Images
Los Angeles

The supply of homes for sale didn't budge at all from March 2014 and actually fell pretty dramatically from February. Usually it's the other way around, as the spring season brings more new listings.

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That could be changing slightly now, though, as higher prices slowly bring more sellers into the market. Los Angeles area real estate agent Jaisa Bishop with The Partners Trust said listings are finally starting to increase.

"What I see is more inventory coming up now. What happened was buyers started to get really frantic, there wasn't enough. There were huge bidding wars. Now you're seeing less frenetic energy than before. It's still crazy, it's still super-heated, but tempered a bit," said Bishop.

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Homes are starting to move a bit faster, with the median time on the market at 45 days in LA in March versus 49 days in February, but not as fast as March 2014, when properties sat for just 39 days. Bishop said despite heavy competition, homes must not be overpriced, or else.

"It will sit on the market, no matter if it's on the high end or the low," she added.

Investors are still big players in Southern California, accounting for nearly a quarter of all sales, but their share has been shrinking slightly, as prices rise. Cash buyers are also abundant at nearly 26 percent, but their share is also waning.