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Pandemic house pricing: Orange County has nation’s 5th weakest, by this math

Have high home prices caught up with Orange County?

The National Association of Realtors’ review of home prices in the summer quarter in 180 large U.S. markets shows Orange County’s median selling price for a single-family existing home of $910,000 was third-highest among the regions. That was up just 4% from the winter quarter’s pre-coronavirus values. Only four markets had a worse performance in the six-month period: Huntsville, Ala.; two Florida regions, Vero Beach and Naples; and San Jose.

Or look at the underperformance this way: Summer’s $313,500 nationwide median was up 14.2% since winter —  more than triple Orange County’s gain.

Housing and the virus have been a curious mix. Historically low mortgage rates and an urge for larger living quarters have motivated many house hunters. In turn, they’ve faced limited choices because owners, fearful of pandemic’s health and economic impacts, aren’t selling. That imbalance has boosted prices — to varying degrees.

But it’s not just tight supply or California’s strict COVID-related restrictions that have made Orange County’s housing market a laggard. It’s nothing new. Comparing winter’s median of $875,000 with 2017 pricing, values rose 10.1%. Nationwide, the gain was 17%, giving Orange County the 18th-smallest gain among the 180 regions over three years.

Millennials who have powered the homebuying binge are relatively poorly paid in California. According to a study by HireAHelper, the cost-of-living-adjusted median wage of millennials in the states is $39,000 — only Florida and Hawaii were lower.

Unsurprisingly, other California markets in the NAR survey — home to some of the priciest U.S. housing — had largely poor pandemic era results. The exception was neighboring Los Angeles County, the only California market tracked that topped the U.S. six-month gain this year. It also was the state’s lone region ranked in the top half of the 180.

L.A.: A $708,900 median — sixth-highest nationally — a 19.6% jump since winter. It was only the 33rd-largest increase of the U.S. regions as coronavirus hammered the economy. That’s quite the reversal from the pre-pandemic conditions: a 5.6% gain from 2017, fourth-lowest among the metros.

San Francisco metro: $1.13 million median — No. 2 nationally — was up 14.2% since winter, No. 93 gain nationally. Pre-pandemic, 16.7% gain from 2017, No. 118 among the 180.

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Fresno: $322,000 median — 50th highest — was up 12.2% since winter, No. 109 appreciation nationally. Pre-pandemic, 18.6% gain from 2017, No. 96 among the metros.

Riverside-San Bernardino counties: $435,000 median — 21st priciest — was up 10.7% since winter, No. 129 advance nationally. Pre-pandemic, 19.0% gain from 2017, No. 92 among the metros.

Sacramento: $429,900 median — 22nd priciest — was up 9.6% since winter, No. 146 rise nationally. Pre-pandemic, 19.1% gain from 2017, No. 90 among the metros.

San Diego County: $729,000 median — fifth priciest — was up 8.8% since winter, No. 152 increase nationally. Pre-pandemic, 11.9% gain from 2017, No. 154 among the metros.

San Jose metro: $1.4 million median — highest in the U.S. — was up 3.7% since winter, fourth-smallest nationally. Pre-pandemic, 16.9% gain from 2017, No. 117 among the metros.

Source: Orange County Register

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