Fewer homes in Inland Empire are "underwater"

Median home prices in Coachella Valley up 21 percent compared to 2013

PALM DESERT, Calf. - There is good news for homeowners here in the Inland Empire.    

Thanks to an improving economy and rising home prices, far fewer homes in Riverside and San Bernadino counties are "underwater".

Palm Desert resident David Darling, who has his home listed for sale, appreciates the improving market.     

"I feel confident.  I feel like it is a more secure market than it was a year or so ago," said Darling.

Like all homeowners, and home sellers, Darling is benefiting from the steadily improving real estate market.

One of the most positive indicators is the drop in the number of homes that are "underwater", or are worth less than what is owed on the mortgage.

Five years ago, more than 70 percent of the homes in the Inland Empire were underwater.

Now, its 17 percent, according to Core Logic.

Darling sees other signs he describes as "positive".

"Well I think there is less investor owned property competing with you for quick turnovers, and I feel the bank repossession properties are not as much as they once were," said Darling.

Along with fewer homes underwater, other numbers from the California Association of Desert Realtors paint a generally positive picture.

While the number of single family homes sold in the valley during the first quarter this year was down eight percent compared to last year, home values are up.

The median sales price for the first three months of 2014 was $335,000, compared to $265,000 for the first quarter of 2013.

That is a gain of 21 percent.

Coldwell Banker agent Steve Downs specializes in Rancho Mirage.

"It is just a more normalized market.  There are better opportunities for sellers to sell their homes.  There is less impact on the market from short sales, and there are fewer foreclosures, and there is less drag on the market.  That is the reason why prices in Rancho Mirage are up about 8 percent year over year.  We are returning to a more normalized market," said Downs.

Also driving up home values right now are fewer distressed sales in the valley.

In early 2013, roughly 28 percent of all home sales were distressed properties.    

First quarter this year, that number was 11 percent.

"I think for a good home seller, this is the start of a new era for us," said Darling.

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