"Love ya" is one of those feeling out statements that people use when they're perhaps feeling a certain way but they're not ready to say "I love you" but they want you to know tha they "love ya". It's more to feel you out than it is that he's not feeling it.
For instance, have you ever met somebody and instead of exchanging phone numbers you exchange email addresses? Well what normally happens is that you commence to emailing and all of them are signed with the person's name. But the end of the day nears and for some odd reason, one person signs their name but a phone number miraculously appears?
It's like, holy sh*t, what do I do with that? Did they do that intentionally (they did) and does that mean they want me to call (it does)? Except since nobody explicitly said anything, both parties can play the ignorant card.
So basically, it's a feeling out process. And an attempt to let you know that he is thinking of you in such a way where he feels a need to say something, but he's possibly not sure how "i love you" would come across or if it would scare you off. Women do this ALL the time.
Oh, and yes, it is THAT HARD to say "I love you". Nobody likes being rejected and we've all seen enough romantic comedies to know that rejection does indeed happen. So we hedge our bets and proceed with caution. Vulnerability is a difficult obstacle to overcome. We've all been burned before (no STD) so give it time and let the relationship get more comfortable. Pretty soon you'll get more "I love you's" than you can handle. At least until you get married and they stop altogether. Or at least that's what I hear.
It was written.