Inland Empire Real Estate Trends: Home Prices Up Sharply in Riverside, San Bernardino Counties

Housing markets across Southern California continue to rebound from a years-long period of inactivity and stagnation. This past August was the best August in seven years, as far as home sales go. The median sale price for the region rose 24.6% over the last year or so.

The Inland Empire real estate market, in particular, has been thriving lately. In recent months, real estate markets in San Bernardino and Riverside Counties have had stable sales activity and rising prices.

Below, you will find the latest conditions and trends for housing markets in Moreno Valley, Fontana, Murrieta, Menifee, and other cities within the Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario metropolitan area.

Inland Empire Real Estate Trends, Through August 2013

Home sales activity is strong in Riverside County and, to a lesser degree, in San Bernardino County. Both counties have seen a rise in sales from August 2012 to August 2013 (hereafter referred to as the “12-month reporting period”).

  • Home sales in Riverside County rose from 3,520 to 3,740 during the 12-month reporting period, for an annual gain of 6.3%.
  • Housing markets across San Bernardino County also experienced an uptick in sales, though slightly lower at 2.5%.

These gains are partly the result of home buyers reentering the market after a long period of fence-sitting. They’re also the result of investor purchases, which have reduced one-time inventory surpluses to healthier levels.

Home prices have risen, year over year, in all of the Inland Empire’s major housing markets (including the cities of Riverside,  San Bernardino, Moreno Valley, Fontana, Ontario, Temecula, Murrieta, Menifee, and Rancho Cucamonga).

According to DataQuick, the median sale price for Riverside County has risen by 26.2% in the last year or so. San Bernardino County was close behind with a 25.1% year-over-year increase.

Each month, Realtor.com publishes a housing summary with data for 146 metro areas across the U.S. According to their latest report, which included data through the end of August 2013, home prices across the Inland Empire rose 23.3% over the last 12 months. These gains were largely the result of inventory declines, which have forced buyers to compete for fewer and fewer properties.

Annual Home-Price Trends by City

The real estate information service Zillow reports significant price gains for housing markets across the Inland Empire. The numbers below show the year-over-year changes in median sale price, from September 2012 to September 2013:

  • Corona +23.0%
  • Fontana +28.4%
  • Menifee +29.9%
  • Moreno Valley +23.0%
  • Murrieta +30.1%
  • Ontario +27.4%
  • Rancho Cucamonga +18.7%
  • Riverside +23.7%
  • San Bernardino +20.5%
  • Temecula +19.9%

The takeaway: Home prices in most Inland Empire cities have risen by 20% or more in the last year.

Inventory Growth May Cool Housing Market, Going Forward

Inventory declines have slowed, and even reversed, in some parts of the Inland Empire. Six months ago, housing inventory was falling rapidly in most parts of the region, including the housing markets in Moreno Valley, Fontana, Murrieta, Temecula and Menifee.

According to Realtor.com, one of the largest property-listing websites in the U.S., the total number of homes for sale in the Riverside-San Bernardino market rose by more than 37% from August 2012 to August 2013.

Due to the leveling off of inventory, and other factors, we expect to see some price cooling in the Inland Empire housing markets. Home prices will likely continue to rise into 2014, but probably at a slower pace than they did over the last 12 months.

New mortgage rules taking effect in January could affect home buyers in the region. The Qualified Mortgage (QM) rule prohibits certain types of home loans and requires borrowers to have a debt-to-income ratio no higher than 43%. The Ability-to-Repay (ATR) rule requires mortgage lenders to verify the borrower’s ability to repay the loan.

Some housing analysts fear the new rules could further restrict mortgage lending, which is already tight by historical standards. But it’s not yet clear how much of an effect, if any, the new lending rules will have on home-buying activity across the Inland Empire. Time will tell.

Disclaimer: This story contains forward-looking statements about the real estate markets in San Bernardino and Riverside counties. Such statements are the sole opinion of the author and represent an educated guess. We make no claims or guarantees about future conditions in these or any other housing markets.