Was Porter Ranch gas leak a jab or a blow on housing market?

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Was Porter Ranch gas leak a jab or a blow on housing market

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PORTER RANCH >> The spring and summer home-buying season is in bloom and a recent report suggests that one Valley market, Porter Ranch, has some ground to make up in the wake of the nation’s biggest natural gas leak.

But some local numbers crunching suggest that the leak in the Southern California Gas Co.’s Aliso Canyon storage field, discovered last Oct. 23, was more of a jab and likely not a huge blow to the market.

Last week an analysis of Porter Ranch home sales from market tracker RealtyTrac and Greenfield Advisors, a economic and real estate research firm, showed that between last August through October and November through January sales in the 91326 zip code fell 44 percent.

Porter Ranch did take a bigger hit than usual at the end of last year, Daren Blomquist, senior vice president at RealtyTrac, said.

The “decrease in home sales in the three months following the discovery of the gas leak was also more than twice the average seasonal drop (of ) 16 percent in the Porter Ranch zip code during the same three-month period in each of the past five years,” he said.

But a more accurate indication of a market’s health is a year-to-year comparison.

“The economist I worked with wanted to look at the immediate impact after the discovery of the gas leak,” Blomquist said.

That impact, while deep, didn’t last very long.

During the November-through-January period prior to the leak there were 69 sales, according to RealtyTrac, and for the same three months after the leak there were 74 sales.

Jim Link, CEO of the Van Nuys-based Southland Regional Association of Realtors, saw the RealtyTrac report and has ordered a data run of the 91326 zip code to see if he could spot a similar trend. But he had not received it as of Friday.

“It stands to reason the number of new listings in the area would be lower because people are reluctant to put their houses on the market and people would be reluctant to buy until things are cleaned up,” he said. “But this is the time of year the market will slow down.”

Realtor John Graff, owner of John Graff Real Estate, offers some insight into the current state of the Porter ranch market by comparing listing trends of properties for sale in the 91326 with Studio City because it is on he other side of the Valley and not impacted by the leak.

The time frame we decided on is last October through March.

“March is right when the spring buying season starts and coincides with the weeks after the well was capped,” Graff said.

Here’s what we found:

In Porter Ranch there were 90 listings last October and 90 in November, 74 in December, 78 in January, 81 in February and 105 in March.

In Studio City there were 179 listings last October, 151 in November, 115 in December, 121 in January and February and 139 in March.

Looks like similar trends in both markets.

“I’m not seeing anything here that stands out or looks shocking to me,” Graff said.

And the year-over-year sales trend in Porter Ranch prior and post gas leak is also similar. January is the softest month in both sales snapshots.

In the period before the leak there were 21 sales in November 2014, 33 in December, 15 in January 2015, 17 in February and 36 in March.

In the comparable period after the leak there were 27 sales in November 2015, 29 in December, 12 this January, 17 in February and 25 in March.

Graff also notes that prices are holding steady, too.

“It’s most definitely coming back to life here. Winter is not a good time to sell and the gas leak was going on. It’s almost the middle of April and every day that passes it (the leak) gets pushed further out of the public consciousness and people are putting their houses up for sale,” he said.

Come September we’ll know how this market plays out.

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