Wednesday, April 27, 2011 at 5:57 a.m.
More would-be buyers in San Diego County are out looking for new homes this season, but many aren’t yet ready to buy in the absence of federal tax incentives and amid the ongoing struggle to secure financing, industry experts say.
“It’s improved, but not great,” said Peter Dennehy, a vice president of John Burns Real Estate Consulting. “The housing market is still very challenged.”
Sales of newly built homes, which lately have made up about 6 percent of total sales, have stayed mainly flat over the last three years, figures from DataQuick Information Systems show.
The county recorded 184 in March, a 26 percent jump from what builders called a dismal February, and a 0.5 percent increase from a year ago. A little more than 200 new homes were sold in March 2009.
Despite sales apparently leveling out, they’re still far from the boom-era peak of 1,640 in September 2004, a consequence of little building in the region, competition from the market’s distressed properties and tight lending standards.
San Diego County’s median price for new homes in March was $528,750, up 15.5 percent from February and up 25.1 percent one year ago. The peak was $553,500 in February 2008, DataQuick data shows.
Nationwide, March sales of new homes were up 11.1 percent from February, the worst year on record for such transactions, according to Monday’s report from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Still, new-home sales in March were down 21.9 percent from a year ago, when a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 384,000 homes were sold. March’s median price was $213,800, up 2.9 percent in February but down 4.8 percent from a year ago.
Dennehy, of John Burns Real Estate Consulting, says the folks who appear most serious about buying new homes are first-timers in the $300,000 price range (seen mostly in South County) and those moving up to the $600,000 to $700,000 bracket (mostly in North County.)
Michelle Chang and her husband, Marc Takenaga, 35, are among the upgraders.
They’re about to close on a $630,000 home in Shea’s Madeira project in Del Sur that’s about 800 square feet bigger than their current home, also in the Del Sur area.
“We wanted more entertaining space and a bigger backyard,” said the 32-year-old attorney, who’s been on a waiting list for the new home since last year.
Some job growth in the biotech and healthcare sectors also have attracted potential buyers toward the Interstate 15 corridor, where most of those jobs and new homebuilding are found.
A large share of new homes on the market in 2011 are in the North, including Carmel Valley, Rancho Santa Fe and Del Sur, mainly ranging from the $600,000s to $800,000s.
Steve Doyle, president of Brookfield Homes San Diego/Riverside division, acknowledges the year started slow, but he says it picked up some in March because of people relocating to San Diego County for well-paying jobs.
“They’re coming from the Midwest, the East Coast and North County,” Doyle said.
Dennehy, of the real estate consulting company, predicts another flat year for new homes, especially with no federal tax credit motivating consumers to buy.
He expects an increase in new home sales in 2012 and beyond.
Lily Leung: (619)293-1719; email@example.com; Twitter @LilyShumLeung