But Sorem said a drop in price per square foot in Glendale and Burbank revealed the continuing vulnerability of the market. In Burbank, the price per square foot fell from about $325 to $310. In Glendale, the price dropped from about $320 to $295.
Agents differed on whether conditions would improve in 2011, but said they don’t expect the market to improve dramatically until the economy picks up.
“The dominating factor in the business is the employment situation,” said Mike Napolitano, director of Dilbeck Realtors Burbank.
All three cities saw an increase in short sales, in which homeowners — with the blessing of their lender — sell properties for less than what they owe on their mortgage. Seen as a less painful alternative to foreclosure, short sales in Glendale increased from 24% of closed sales in 2009 to 30% in 2010, according to Sorem, and from 24% to 27% in Burbank.
“The banks are trying to avoid foreclosures and are being pushed hard to complete the short sales” by federal regulators, said Ed Sanchez, a broker at R.R. Gable in Burbank.
Sales of bank-owned properties, or foreclosures, grew slightly in Burbank in 2010, from 23% a year earlier to 24% in 2010, according to Sorem. In Glendale, sales of bank-owned properties dipped from 23.5% in 2009 to 20% in 2010.
Sorem said banks holding properties in foreclosure often move them in groups of 20 or more, selling to investors who get a bulk discount, fix up the homes, then either list them or rent them out. Those deals may help reduce the steady stream of foreclosures that have driven the market down since the start of the recession, he said.
Agents said that the high end of the market is soft, and that prices likely will drop.
Ruby Davidian, a broker with ReMax Tri-City in Glendale, said she had a busy year at the $500,000 range.
“I’m having a hard time with $800,000 and up,” she said. “Sellers are not understanding the economy is not very good, and they have to bring the prices down.”
All told, Napolitano said he believes the worst of the down cycle is over. Glendale and Burbank have reputations as being fiscally sound, with good schools and safe streets. That helps real estate values, even as the state’s fiscal crisis has many people worried about government service, agents said.
“2010 looked better than ‘09,” Napolitano said. “I expect 2011 to be better again, but you are not making giant leaps.”