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How Do You Spell Affordable Housing in Orange County? : C-O-N-D-O-S

June 30, 1988|JOHN O'DELL | Times Staff Writer

The median price of a new detached home in Orange County recently hit $273,000, but yes, you still can buy a new home in Orange County for under $200,000--if you don't insist on a detached unit.

The answer is a condominium. According to a recent survey of all new condo developments in the county, the average price is a mere $169,154, and the median is an even lower $146,990.

The condo study, conducted from mid-May through early June by First American Title Insurance Co. in Santa Ana, surveyed every project selling new condominiums and town homes, as some condominiums are called. It covered 31 developments, which accounted for 5,542 proposed units, of which 81% had already been sold.

The study clearly shows that condos are fast becoming an important segment of the market in Orange County, despite buyer surveys that repeatedly show consumers' preferences for detached housing.

A study in February by First American Title counted only 6,279 detached single-family homes in developments where sales of units had not been completed. That means that condominiums and town homes accounted for 47% of the total of 11,821 new units on the market during the first half of the year.

And while price appreciation for condos has been fairly anemic for years--limping along at 3% to 5% in reflection of buyers' preference for detached housing--the situation seems to have changed dramatically with a 15.7% increase in the average new condo price in the past 12 months.

The reason common-wall housing is becoming more marketable, industry specialists say, is simply that land costs and government-imposed open-space requirements are making it prohibitively expensive for developers in many areas to set aside the larger individual lots that detached homes require.

Among the findings:

- The average selling price was $169,154, about $22,000 above the median, or halfway point. Prices ranged from a low of $79,900 (only two units left at the beginning of the month) for a 742-square-foot condo in Lake Forest to $430,000 for a 2,318-square-foot condo in San Clemente.

- The average selling price for new condos is up 37% since the middle of 1983, when the average was $123,528.

- The average homeowner association fee--something with which the owners of most single-family detached homes are not encumbered--was $122.23 per month. It runs as low as $40 a month and as high as $250. Five years ago, the average was $99.90.

- Average condo size was 1,321 square feet, and condo buyers were paying $128.05 per square foot for their abodes. For that, they were getting a fireplace, a patio or deck, 2.3 bedrooms, 2.1 baths and 1.8 covered parking spaces. The smallest units on the market, all under 1,000 square feet, had one bedroom and one bathroom. There were no four-bedroom condos or town homes listed, but a number of units, ranging in size from 1,500 square feet to 3,000 square feet, had three bedrooms and 2.5 baths, and one model--a 1,504 square-foot town home in Laguna Niguel--boasted three bedrooms and three baths for $178,900.

- Of the 1,047 units still for sale when the survey was conducted, about 150, or 15%, were priced at $190,000 or more. The next biggest group--85 units, or 8.1%--was in the $120,000 to $129,990 range, and about 75 units were grouped between $100,000 and $119,990.

CONDOMINIUM SALES IN ORANGE COUNTY

% PROJECTS MEDIAN AVERAGE CHANGE FROM YEAR SELLING UNITS SALES PRICE SALES PRICE PRIOR YEAR 1988 31 $146,990 $169,154 +15.7 1987 67 122,990 146,202 3.3 1986 84 126,200 141,580 5.3 1985 147 117,990 134,409 5.6 1984 125 110,995 127,234 3.0

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