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Southern California Homes Sales Jump 22 Percent in April

Home sales surged 22 percent in Southern California during April as bargain-hunters bought lower-end homes in areas hardest hit by foreclosures, a research firm said Monday.

Sales of new and resale homes and condos reached 15,615 in April, up from 12,808 in March and the highest monthly total since August, according to DataQuick Information Systems .

The monthly increase of 22 percent in the six-county region is well above the average gain of only 1.2 percent from March to April since DataQuick began keeping statistics in 1988.

Homes under $500,000 accounted for two-thirds of the monthly gain, DataQuick said. Riverside County, which the firm calls the "epicenter" of foreclosures and price declines in Southern California, posted the region's only annual sales increase, its first in two years.

"Quite a few more buyers stepped off the sidelines last month to snap up homes at substantial discounts relative to the market's short-lived peak," said DataQuick President Marshall Prentice.

Foreclosures drew buyers, according to DataQuick. Nearly 38 percent of homes resold in April were in foreclosure at some point during the previous 12 months, compared to 36 percent in March and only 5 percent in April 2007. In Riverside County, foreclosures accounted for 53 percent of resale homes sold.

April's median home price in Southern California was $385,000, down 24 percent from $505,000 in April 2007.

Despite the sales surge since March, April sales were down 19 percent from 19,269 in the same period last year, marking the weakest April tally since 1995, DataQuick said.

"We continue to look for evidence of a sales bounce in the mid-priced and higher-end markets along the coast," Prentice said.

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