A jump in home sales this summer indicates that Orange County’s housing slump may finally be coming to an end. According to housing tracker DataQuick Information Systems, sales were up 25.7% in July 2012 compared to July 2011 – that’s the biggest percentage gain the local market has seen in approximately 40 months. And, the boom isn’t isolated to a single area. According to the data, home buying rose in 80% of Orange County zip codes.

Market observers speculate that lower inventory – particularly of distressed properties that have been discounted in price – is driving the jump in purchases. Foreclosures, for example, accounted for only 13.2% of recent Orange County transactions. When compared to a historical average of 26% per month for the past four-and-a-half years, this indicates a significant decrease in supply. And, it’s that lack of supply that’s likely driving up prices.

While demand is highest for homes priced under $300,000, the median price for an Orange County home was $450,000 in July. And, thanks to a stabilizing market, low interest rates, and an increase in “normal” (that is, non-distressed) sales and purchases, most experts expect the upswing in real estate sales and prices to continue.

"Homebuyer confidence has returned ... and low borrowing rates and rents are attracting investment at higher than normal levels," Orange County Association of Realtors President Maria Elena Banks told The Orange County Register. "Buyers are jumping off (the fence) to follow investors, lured by low rates and the sense that prices will rise in the future as the economy improves."

Based on the data, it seems now may be the best time to buy or sell a home in years.