Southern California home prices in December rose by the most in 19 months, the latest sign that the housing market is gaining steam after a prolonged slowdown.
The six-county median sales price hit a new all-time high of $550,000 last month, a 7.2% increase from a year earlier, according to data from DQNews. Sales, meanwhile, surged 22.1% from December 2018 -- the largest gain since late 2016.
The dramatic bounce of sales and home prices reflects the depressed state of the market a year earlier. At the time, concerns over affordability and the direction of the economy were heightened. The stock market had plunged and some would-be buyers wondered if prices would follow. Sales in December 2018 dropped 20% from a year earlier.
"December 2018 was a really weird month," said Christopher Thornberg, founding partner at Beacon Economics.
Still, the data reveal a market that's heating up after staying slow through much of 2019. Thornberg and other economists attributed the pickup to an easing of recession fears, rising incomes and falling mortgage rates -- factors that have made buying more attractive and possible.
"High-income people buy houses and their incomes have been really strong," said Richard Green, director of the USC Lusk Center for Real Estate.
Prices increased in most counties last month:
--In Los Angeles County, the median price rose 7.4% to $628,250, while sales climbed 18.4%.
--In Orange County, the median price rose 3.2% to $732,750. Sales climbed 36.9%.In Riverside County, the median price rose 6.9% to $401,250. Sales climbed 17.9%.
--In San Bernardino County, the median price rose 7.7% to $355,000. Sales climbed 21.5%.In San Diego County, the median price rose 4.5% to $575,000. Sales climbed 24.1%.