Southern Calif. Home Sales Up Dramatically

The housing crisis may be starting to turn around in at least one part of the country. Last month, home sales in Southern California jumped 65 percent from a year ago.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

And the troubled housing market has been a major factor in dragging down the economy. But in Southern California, a region with one of the worst foreclosure rates, home sales for the month of September jumped 65 percent over last year. That's prompting some to wonder if the market has hit bottom. NPR's Carrie Kahn reports.

CARRIE KAHN: First-time home buyers and bargain hunters had a feeding frenzy in Southern California last month. Sales skyrocketed over last year's figures as buyers were snatching up some of the lowest prices in five years. Home sales in 2007 were dismal. That's when the credit crunch put the brakes on easy financing. But analyst Andrew LePage of MDA DataQuick says a jump in sales of 65 percent is still amazing.

Mr. ANDREW LEPAGE (Spokesman, MDA DataQuick): You know, it speaks to the depths of the foreclosure problem in California.

KAHN: Foreclosures and falling home prices hit the inland regions of Southern California hardest. Foreclosures made up nearly 70 percent of sales in some cities, and home prices dropped more than $20,000 in just one month. That's a loss of about a thousand dollars a business day. But MDA DataQuick's LePage says it's difficult to predict if the real estate market has hit bottom. That's because September's figures reflect summer sales.

Mr. LEPAGE: Meaning that people were making the purchase decisions in the middle of summer, into late summer, before the financial market meltdown we've seen in the last few weeks.

KAHN: And analysts say if a moderate slowdown in foreclosures is seen in future numbers, it's probably more a reflection of lenders not having enough staff to process the paperwork than an easing of the crisis. Carrie Kahn, NPR News.

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