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Yet Another Report Adds to Home Sales Confusion

February 11, 1988|JAMES S. GRANELLI and MARIA L. La GANGA | Times Staff Writers

The statisticians agree that Orange County real estate sales boomed last year and prices are higher than ever, but comparing the figures they report became more confusing Wednesday.

A survey released by the California Assn. of Realtors shows that sales of existing homes in Orange County increased 15.5% last year.

It also shows that the median purchase price for those homes jumped 13%--the largest percentage increase in the state--to $166,948 for the year from $147,743 in 1986.

But a survey released Wednesday by TRW Information Services reported that total real estate transactions in January--including those involving commercial property--fell 50.5% in the county from December.

Biggest Decline

The drop was the biggest decline of the five Southern California counties surveyed by TRW, which attributed the one-month change to normal seasonal fluctuations.

And the realtors' median purchase price for 1987 is about $8,000 lower than the average price estimated by the U.S. League of Savings Institutions last Thursday.

With an average price for all homes of $175,000, Orange County was the most expensive housing market of the 25 metropolitan areas included in the league study.

News reports of the various studies can be tough to follow, some statisticians said, because different surveys measure different parts of the market.

The realtors' survey, for instance, does not include new homes, a major portion of total county sales activity. The league survey includes new homes and condominiums, but it is based on a sampling of only 22,000 mortgage loans made by only 857 savings institutions nationwide.

An 8-Year High

In the realtors' survey, sales of existing, single-family detached homes reached an eight-year high of 506,979 homes statewide last year. The record is 584,185 homes sold in 1979.

In Orange County, the realtors said, a household needed an annual income of $51,823 to make monthly payments of $1,296 on a median-priced home. Only 30% of the county's households could afford that, compared to 32% in 1986.

The TRW survey showed that real estate sales in five Southern California counties dropped 40.2% in January from the previous month. Sales in Orange County were the slowest, falling 50.5%.

A total of $7.7 billion was borrowed to buy or refinance property in Orange, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Bernardino and Riverside counties last month, the lowest level since February, 1987, when $2.6 billion was borrowed, TRW said.

In Orange County, loans for purchases and refinancings totaled $1.35 billion last month, compared to $2.7 billion in December.

"The January figures represent a normal seasonal adjustment," said Dan Corcoran, TRW vice president. "I don't see any significance yet to the Orange County figures. But there will be if the county's numbers continue to lag behind others in the next few months."

REGIONAL HOME PRICES

Percent 1987 Change Change Median in Price in Sales Region Price from 1986 Activity Orange County $166,948 13.0 15.5 Los Angeles $139,424 8.3 8.4 San Diego $128,789 9.0 23.6 Riverside/San Bernardino $ 98,682 4.4 26.0

Based on closed escrow sales of single-family, detached homes only (no condominiums). Source: California Assn. of Realtors

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