The housing market in Southern California is showing signs of turning the corner as the region's median home price increased for the first time in April and foreclosures made up the smallest share of sales in four years since late 2010

Among other indicators of improvement, foreclosures significantly dropped in California as well as other Western states, which is a continuation of a trend that began last fall, according to research by the firm ForeclosureRadar. Another report by the country's mortgage bankers shows that foreclosures and national delinquencies hit a four-year low, driven mostly by declines by the states in the West

The easing of defaults and foreclosures is seen as key in helping to correct the housing market because those homes often sell at a discount

According to data by real estate research firm DataQuick, the region's median home price increased 3.6 percent from a year earlier in April to $290,000. The median is the point at which half the residences in an area sell for more and half for less. Those price gains were a result of increases in the Inland Empire, where homes owned by banks have been prevalent since the subprime mortgage crisis

The median prices in Los Angeles and Orange Counties fell, though because those pricier, coastal counties made up a bigger share of the market than in previous months, they helped lift the median for the region

The market is continuing its slow crawl back towards normalcy, DataQuick President John Walsh said. It can be seen in the uptick in median prices here and there, the higher levels of sales in coastal counties and the fading role of foreclosures, he added

Prices seem to be stabilizing as the number of homes on the market decrease and also as buyers get more competitive. Sales of condominiums, town homes and single-family homes increased 5.1 percent over April 2011 to hit 19,284 in April of this year. Some analysts say that sales could have been even stronger this season if more homes were available

The number of homes for sale statewide was low in May according to the California Association of Realtors. Based on the group’s inventory index, slightly more than four months' worth of homes are on the market. A healthy market is about six to seven months' worth

Based on the figures and where we are headed now, a bottom has been reached, said Steven Thomas whose company, ReportsOnHousing.com, dispenses monthly reports on Southern California real estate with an emphasis on Orange County. There is enough activity that it’s causing prices to slowly increase, he added

The lack of available homes is causing home buyers to get increasingly competitive with each another, say real estate agents. One realtor said several homes that he had been looking at for his buyers racked up multiple offers, including a three-bedroom, two-bathroom property in Anaheim, which listed at $304,000. In just one week, it received 71 bids, he said

Coupled with the unbelievable number of buyers and the low amount of inventory, we are seeing numerous offers and over-bidding left and right, the agent said. This has been going on time and time again, and it’s part of the Spring 2012 real estate market — I don’t know how long it's going to continue, he added.