Los Angeles County home sales continued their rebound in April as warmer weather and falling prices coaxed homebuyers back into the market.

Sales for the month rose about 15 percent over March as the median price slid 2 percent to $456,000, according to data provided to the Business Journal by Melville, N.Y.-based HomeData Corp.

That increase is more typical of spring sales volume than what occurred a year ago as the region's housing boom began to sputter: March-to-April 2007 sales fell nearly 4 percent.

Steven Thomas, a regional president for RE/MAX Real Estate Services, said that the increased sales last month partly reflect more first time home buyers entering the market as prices fall.

"We're seeing a first-time-home-buyer wave in both L.A. and Orange County," said Thomas, who doesn't believe prices will stop falling year-over-year until early next year. "I think we'll be at a flat market for a couple of years price-wise, probably moving not more than the rate of inflation. But at least we'll have a lot more transactions."

Still, home sales are sharply down from a year ago when 5,096 homes were sold in April. In raw numbers there were 3,647 home sales last month, but that reflects a five-week HomeData reporting period. Adjusted to reflect the four-week period of a year ago, that number falls to 2,918 units a 43 percent drop year-over-year.

While prospective buyers are leaving the sidelines, real estate observers believe it will take the market a few years or more to recover as foreclosures continue to muddy the market.

Foreclosures rose 130 percent in Los Angeles County in the first quarter year-over-year, with 20,339 homeowners receiving foreclosure notices, according to DataQuick Information Systems of La Jolla. And in places where foreclosures were hitting particularly hard, such as the Antelope Valley, sales were being supercharged as prices continued to fall.

In Lancaster's 93536 ZIP code, sales fell 42 percent in March year-over-year, but in April jumped 28 percent year-over-year. At the same time, the April median price fell to $285,000 $9,000 less than March and $90,000 less than a year ago.

Conversely, home sales in the county's priciest neighborhoods were at a virtual dead standstill the opposite of last year when luxury home sales were propping up the market. In Beverly Hills' 90212 and 90210 Zip codes, where median prices top $2 million, there were a total of just 10 sales.


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