April of 2023 ended with a 40% drop in the number of homes sold across the South Bay compared to 2022. The median price was down 20% from last year in Palos Verdes and is up by a mere 1% at the Beach. Year to year median prices across the South Bay are down approximately 5%. Cumulative sales revenue for the first four months across the South Bay has dropped 39% from 2022 numbers.
Year to date, 2023 has been one of the slowest markets we’ve seen in recent years. Sales are off by 43% in the Beach Cities and are down by 22% across the South Bay compared to last year. Median prices escalated dramatically in 2021-2022, and are still above those of 2019 by 30-35%. However, the median has fallen in all four areas since late last year. We anticipate the median price continuing to drop until interest rates seriously decline again.
Business in the years between 2019 and 2023 was seriously impacted by the pandemic, and the massive government funds released to counter the effect of the pandemic. Looking back at 2019 and comparing it to 2023 offers a perspective on where the market is and where we can expect it to go during the balance of the year. Today we see a huge decline in the number of homes being sold. That has yet to translate into a significant decline in median prices, although 75% of year over year sales show prices falling.
At the same time the Average Days On Market (ADOM) has increased from about 7 days during the sales boom of 2021-2022 to about 30 days now. That’s a four-fold increase in the amount of time it takes to sell a home. For a seller who needs to move, that will feel like an eternity. It’s that sense of urgency that drives prices down and ultimately results in a shift of the market.
At the Beach “Sticky Prices”
Sellers in the Beach Cities had a good month in April—at least compared to March of this year. Compared to April of last year, the picture is far worse.
The number of homes sold in April was up 8% compared to March. That sounds positive, until the realization that sales volume was down 36% compared to April of 2022. At the same time, the median price was up 2% versus last month, and down 2% compared to the same month last year.
There’s a lot of talk among brokers these days about “sticky prices.” Recent sales at the Beach offer a good example of what that means. The statistics show that sales are down 36% from last year, however prices have only dropped 2%. Sales are falling because the number of viable buyers is down.
Interest rate increases have pushed the most tenuous group of prospective buyers out of the market. At the same time, sellers are still revelling in the boost to median prices that came with record low interest rates during the pandemic. Beach area sellers have yet to adjust to the reality of a re-trenching economy. That adjustment is “sticky prices.”
Harbor Sales and Prices Off
The neighborhood can affect how long it takes the median price to respond to changes in the economic environment. While sales volume and pricing has remained strong at the Beach, sellers and buyers in entry level communities are impacted more immediately by shifts in the economy.
Thus we see the give and take of the market bring median prices into a stable range early in the year in the Harbor area. The red line in the median price chart below shows four months of reasonably steady prices. While month over month prices have shown only a 1% drop, the monthly sales volume has taken a 12% dive from March, as shown in the Sales Volume chart, above.
The monthly decline in sales was multiplied in the year over year statistics. April sales volume was down 39% from April of 2022. For the same period, the declining sales volume was coupled with a 9% drop in median price. So the entry level communities demonstrate a much quicker and deeper response to changes in the financial picture.
Part of that response is the time on market, which has risen from 15 ADOM in mid-2021 to 26 ADOM in April of this year. The increasing time required to sell homes contributes to the number of homes available on the market. Both factors contribute to falling purchase prices.
Palos Verdes In Extremes
Through 2021 and 2022 home prices on the Palos Verdes peninsula benefitted from the Covid pandemic more than any area in the South Bay. In the median price by quarter chart, shown below, the yellow line is seen jumping up and away from the blue line of the Beach Cities. Unfortunately for home owners on the Hill, that price boost has already pulled back into line with prices of Beach area homes.
Comparing the first four months of the 2023 to 2022 median prices on the Hill have dropped 16%. It’s a steep decline in view of decreases at 3% and 6% in the Inland and Harbor areas, respectively. Even more so when looking at the 1% increase at the Beach.
The statistics look much better when comparing Palos Verdes sales from 2023 to statistics from 2019, the last “normal” year of real estate business. Sales volume on the Hill is down a modest 13%–modest by comparison to the Beach, which is down 43%. In contrast, median prices in 2023, compared to 2019, are still showing positive growth of 30%.
So, if one were to take the Federal Reserve System position that 2% annual growth is a desirable target, where would prices be today? The median price in Palos Verdes in May of 2019 was $1.5M. Jump forward to 2023 and that becomes about $1.6M. The median on the Hill last month was $1.9M, which suggests further price reductions.
Inland – The Steepest Fall
From an investment perspective, homes in the Inland area of the Los Angeles South Bay are “bread and butter.” These are the homes, much like those in the Harbor area, which reliably increase in value over long periods of time at a slow and steady rate. Most importantly, they house the bulk of our community.
In the short term, Inland home sales volume is down 25% from March to April of this year. Median prices are up 2% for the same period. This is the steepest fall in number of homes sold in the four areas charted.
Year over year, sales volume is off even more at 43% below April of 2022, and prices similarly down by 4%. We expect a seasonal boost to sales for the second quarter, when families most frequently schedule moves. Beyond that, most predictions are for continued softening in the real estate market as the Fed struggles with inflation. (The April Consumer Price Index, [CPI-U] for Los Angeles metro was 5.2% for Housing.)