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Homebuying ranks hottest in Irvine, Santa Ana and coolest in Newport, San Clemente


What's hot housing in Orange County?

Let me introduce you to my "MOCHA" – the "Measure of Orange County Housing Acceleration" that may provide more clues about what's up and what's down on the local homebuying scene.

It’s relatively simple math using CoreLogic data to score sales and pricing momentum in local ZIP codes.

Here's how my trusty spreadsheet creates a MOCHA ranking. First, we pruned from our survey the 10 percent of the 83 ZIPs tracked with the least selling activity. This eliminates eight communities with a limited sample size of homes in play. That got us to 75 ZIPs to compare.

Next, we ranked the ZIPs by both year-over-year sales percentage growth and year-over-year price change. Then we averaged the two rankings by ZIP, so we could see what neighborhoods had both sales and pricing strength. ZIPs with high average rank are the hottest, by MOCHA definition; low rank means coolest.

Here’s the July MOCHA results of who’s hottest - decidedly inland communities - and who’s not - largely by the sea:

Top-ranked by my MOCHA index was Irvine 92602 with a median selling price of $936,500 in July. It had a 25 percent year-over-year gain in its median selling price, the fifth best in Orange County. Sales were up 126 percent in a year, third best.

Next came Irvine 92603 with a median selling price of $1.29 million. That’s up 35 percent in a year, second best. Sales were up 71 percent, eighth best.

Santa Ana 92701 ranked third, with a median selling price of $340,000. Its 58 percent price gain was the county’s best. Sales were up 60 percent, 11th best.

No. 4 was Stanton 90680, median selling price of $402,500. It had a price gain of 14 percent, the 10th best. Sales were up 68 percent, 9th best.

And ranking fifth was Mission Viejo 92691, median selling price of $608,500. It had a price gain of 10 percent, the 21st best. Sales were up 82 percent, 5th best.

The weakest ZIPs by MOCHA’s math comparing year-over-year buying trends for July was Newport Coast 92657, with a median selling price of $1,625,000. It had a dip in its median selling price of 34 percent in a year, the county’s worst. Sales were down 34 percent, next to worst.

Second weakest was San Clemente 92672 with a median selling price of $645,000. It had a price drop of 10 percent in a year, ninth worst. Sales were down 20 percent, fourth worst.

Next came Laguna Beach 92651, median selling price of $1.5 million. It’s price drop of 15 percent was fifth worst. Sales were down 7 percent, 13thworst.

No. 4 from the bottom was Newport Beach 92663, median selling price of $1.36 million. It had a price dip of 19 percent, third worst. Sales were off 6 percent, 15th worst.

And not near the ocean, the fifth-worst score was for Foothill Ranch 92610 with a median selling price of $520,500. It had a price loss of 18 percent in the year, the fourth worst. Sales were flat.

This is NOT a perfect metric, and is perhaps best viewed as a snapshot of where buyers are actively shopping - or not.

For one, ZIP data represents geography with size of home market and the demographics within that can vary widely. Plus, it's one month of data vs. another month of data, short periods that can be distorted by various factors.

Still, MOCHA's results do strong hint at a market trend we’ve noticed in other studies: It’s been a tough year for higher-priced housing.

Even that conclusion probably doesn’t preclude a properly priced home in one of MOCHA’s low-scoring ZIPs sell swiftly.

And, sellers, please don’t think an overpriced listing will go fast in a top-ranked neighborhood.