Homes in Carmel Valley, a hot area in San Diego real estate so far this year. — Howard Lipin / Union-Tribune staff
The number of homes listed for sale in San Diego County has fallen to its lowest level in nearly three years, a likely sign that homeowners who want to sell their homes can’t or are still on the fence, based on recent numbers from the San Diego Association of Realtors.
Related: Diving deeper: February housing numbers
A snapshot taken in March shows the county had more than 7,400 active listings, the lowest level since June 2009. March’s level is 38 percent lower than a year ago and 8 percent lower than a month ago.
The findings are based on a data set starting in June 2009, when the Realtors’ association split up their inventory count between active listings and contingent listings, when a sale is waiting for final approval. Contingent transactions include short sales, in which borrowers owe more on their mortgages than their homes are worth but the lender agrees to a discounted payoff.
“We have very limited inventory,” said Donna Sanfilippo, president of the San Diego Association of Realtors on Monday. “We’re showing inventory is really down.”
Sanfilippo said home-price declines have kept potential sellers from entering the market unless they’re pursuing short sales, which have become more popular in recent years. Such deals made up 23.9 percent total resales in the county in January, the most recent cycle’s peak.
Related: Home sales surge, prices flat in February
Less inventory may also mean more competition for limited supply of homes. That, in turn, could mean values will increase, Sanfilippo said.
That result remains to be seen as investors still have a tight grip on the local housing market. Many of them remain competitive with cash, which often beats traditional buyers — even those who have saved up a 20 percent down payment.
“Most (sellers) would like to see first-time homebuyers, but if cash is offered, and at the same amount, then they’ll go with the cash offer,” Sanfilippo said.
Jeremy Katz, an associate broker at Keller Williams in Mission Valley, said the market “feels very stuck” as both potential sellers and buyers are struggling to enter the market. They’re feeling the most push back in these price ranges: under $300,000 and between $400,000 to $700,000.
Other factors that contribute to the county’s lower-than-normal inventory numbers include homeowners who are severely underwater on their mortgage and can’t move, and those who are in the middle of a loan modification.
Written by Lily Leung | 6 a.m., April 3, 2012