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Dick Turpin

Sales Hot But Listings Are Scarce

April 19, 1987|Dick Turpin

The fascinating, usually profitable but sometimes frustrating world of resale housing is entering one of its periodic cycles.

In the wake of one of the Southland's most active selling periods, a shortage described by one realty executive as "severe" is developing in certain sections of the resale home market.

Another veteran broker said sales agents were starting to whine and scramble for listings.

If you live in our "fishbowl," generally described in realty parlance as the Westside, or in the San Gabriel Valley area, call your neighborhood realty firm. They'll be pleased to take your listing.

Eric James, vice president of the Santa Monica Board of Realtors who has been in the business for 17 years, says the recent period of low interest rates was the principal magnet for buying.

Also, tax reform allowed tax and interest benefits on two homes, and the rush of buying during 1986 continued into this year.

But now, listings are down a significant 30% in the popular and expensive Westside. Generally, that takes in everything west of the San Diego Freeway, Santa Monica, Marina del Rey and Pacific Palisades.

Sales of single-family homes in that general area were up 47% from a comparative period a year ago, but the sales tide is really pulling against itself as listings drop. This has resulted in the severe shortage, he declared.

"Any reasonably priced house will sell easily. Some are selling over the market price," he said, because the marketplace is full of buyers, and it's also true of multifamily property because that commodity too is in short supply. However, rapidly rising mortgage interest rates may slow down the entire process.

James traced the recent history of one home which, after falling out of two escrows, was priced upward in two $10,000 increments and finally sold in mid-March for $250,000. The beginning price had been $229,000. The price increases over a three-month period, he said, were illustrative of the strength of the market.

Inland, in the San Gabriel Valley's western sector and in the Glendale and La Canada Flintridge areas, for instance, listings are down about 20%.

But a South Pasadena realty board spokeswoman countered that there were only 16 fewer listings (157 minus 141) than a year ago in March throughout the areas served by its members, which include those from San Marino and Highland Park.

Yet, David Bryant, a South Pasadena broker, pointed out that his staff and his competitors are hustling for scarce listings. Some of the sales personnel are "whining," he quipped, a sure sign of scarcity of homes for sale.

More seriously, he said this period may be the toughest in 20 years. The market is strong but has become very tight since the first of the year and because of that, some sales agents are accepting listings which are overpriced and unrealistic.

Also, because the recent market has been so hot, many sellers have put their homes up for sale "by owner." In times of such sales activity, Bryant conceded, that situation becomes quite attractive to sell-it-yourselfers--"they can be in the drivers seat."

A bright note: Those who can't find the scarce single-family dwelling, he noted, are now turning to the condominium as an alternative purchase.

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