Clovis News

Bargain hunters snap up Fresno Co. homes

Home sales continued to soar last month as bargain hunters scooped up houses faster than they came up for sale, creating bidding wars and driving down the inventory of unsold homes.

But banks were the biggest sellers, responsible for 60.5% of the transactions in Fresno County, MDA DataQuick reported. With so many foreclosures being sold, prices are still under pressure -- although realty agents say prices are firming up as the summer buying season hits.

The median price in Fresno County fell 7.1% in April to $130,000 after climbing 9.6% in March, the first uptick in 13 months, according to DataQuick. The decline didn't surprise veteran real estate agent Don Scordino, who said the median price will likely fluctuate as the market improves.

"It appears to be heading up," he said. "But we won't see it every month consistently."

The median price in the whole of Northern California climbed nearly 5%, and DataQuick said it could be a sign that some parts of the housing market are stabilizing.

The median price in just Fresno and Clovis has been as follows, according to Guarantee Real Estate: $127,475 in February, $145,000 in March, $136,500 in April and $145,000 so far in May.

Perhaps the most stunning aspect is the drop in unsold inventory. The supply is 1.9 months to four months depending on how it's calculated, which means everything would sell in that period if no more houses came on the market.

On Thursday, 2,352 houses and condominiums were listed for sale in Fresno and Clovis.

Real estate agents are reporting multiple offers, and the number of foreclosures for sale in Fresno and Clovis was only 250 Thursday. With about 980 sales pending, it appears that May will be another strong month.

How long that continues remains to be seen. Fresno's foreclosure rate -- reflecting the percentage of households in default -- ranked 11th in the nation last month, according to RealtyTrac, and some experts predict another surge of foreclosures this summer.

Jared Martin, president of the Fresno Association of Realtors, said he doesn't fear a next wave. "Our community has done a wonderful job of absorbing these," he said. "There are still enough buyers to absorb it."

Real estate analyst Robin Kane of Fresno said the pool of first-time buyers is finite but noted that it is a pool of Olympic-size caliber, and that many inside it are still waiting to buy.

"A lot of first-time home buyers are choosing not to buy because we are still in a recession," he said. "They will buy a TV before they buy a car and will buy a car before they buy a house. They will jump off the fence when they see things improving."

The strong sales activity is recognition that prices are no longer out of hand, Kane said. About 77% of all households in Fresno County can afford an entry-level home, according to the California Association of Realtors.

"You would have to go back to the '70s to see that percentage," Kane said.