Home sales thrive in O.C.

Realtor Gail Martin (right) said Orange County does come out of the recessions faster and sooner than any other part of the nation, traditionally.
CBS News

(CBS News) LOS ANGELES - We learned this week that Americans bought fewer homes in May than in April. Since sales bottomed out in 2010, existing homes sales have struggled upward. They slipped again last month, by 1.5 percent. Still, there are some bright spots, as in the case of Orange County, California.

Something is about to happen on some weed-infested 389 acres in Orange County, California, that goes against everything the nation's housing market seems to be saying.

Developers are about to build 2,000 brand news homes on that land -- luxury homes no less. Why put new homes on the market when nationwide existing home sales are in the tank?

"There's a need," said Seth Ring of Toll Bros, Inc. "Interest rates are at historic lows and I think people are tired of waiting."

It's not a hard sell. Orange Country is one of the most desirable living locations. Picky buyers who've been waiting to buy want to buy here -- a far cry from inland California suburbs where many buyers overpaid and remain underwater.

But what happens in Orange County doesn't stay in Orange County, and that's what has the rest of California hopeful.

"Orange County does come out of the recessions faster and sooner than any other part of the nation, traditionally," said realtor Gail Martin. She's busy as she was at the height of the housing boom in 2005.

"I took a buyer out to a see a home," she said. "By the time I got there, half an hour after it was on the market, it was already sold."

But while that's good for her, there's a downside. The shortage of good homes, she says, is driving some potential buyers out of the market.

Many are going for far above the asking price, which is squeezing buyers like Morgann Perry who thought 2012 was her year to take the plunge.

"Every one that I've been on the verge of, 'Oh, I love this one,' it sells so quickly," said Perry. "So it's definitely competitive."

So far, she's been outbid every time by those with deeper pockets.

"Somebody with 20 percent down is never gonna get the house over somebody with cash," admitted Martin. "We have a tremendous amount of cash coming into Orange County right now."

There's no shortage of serious buyers it seems -- just a shortage of something to buy. Which is why that empty field may be so full of promise.