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Dick Turpin

Drive Time Seems Route for Housing Affordability

September 25, 1988|Dick Turpin

The unabated home-buying frenzy throughout our metropolitan area is adding new meaning to the word afford.

Even with stable and prevalent under-11% fixed-rate mortgage interest rates, buying affordable shelter today in this market virtually means you have to leave town.

Our new buyers are sacrificing drive time for affordability.

In its commonly accepted meaning, affordability deals with having enough money or means to bear the cost of a purchase without serious inconvenience or without risking serious consequences.

That has become a very difficult matter for home buyers. Much of today's real estate section deals with that issue.

Most of the affordable homes for new buyers are in the Antelope Valley, the Inland Empire of San Bernardino and Riverside counties, or the so-called--and misleading--"freeway-close" San Gabriel and Conejo valleys.

Those areas abound with new home tracts, still affordable in most cases. Young families put down roots, at least temporarily, in those far reaches, described statistically as among the fastest growing sectors in the state and nation.

Of course, all that long-distance driving between the affordable home and the workplace, whether it's downtown Los Angeles, or a business complex or job site miles away, adds to the congestion of the freeways.

Typical of scores of new householders are men and women who have come to love--or hate--their cars, their radios and tape decks more. They leave their homes in outlying areas early, drive to work--in Van Nuys, Woodland Hills, West Covina, Orange or Newport Beach, to cite some examples--commuting 50 or more miles one way.

But distance, by Southland and California mentality, is not that important; it's how long it takes to get to and from work. That longstanding local attitude drives outlanders crazy.

The shocking escalation of prices for Southland homes, new and old, is somewhat unbelievable, even for the blase hands in real estate.

The recent report by the Los Angeles Board of Realtors, covering prices of existing homes in such places as the central city, Hollywood, Los Feliz, the Westside, including Brentwood, West Los Angeles and Pacific Palisades, indicated a 27% jump in prices from just a year ago. (Shades of Orange County home-price escalation in the wake of the 1976 housing boom.).

The average price for the single-family home has become $506,115, as of the July accounting by the board. The median price in the same areas for the July-to-July period moved upward 37%, to $425,000.

It's a good thing the survey didn't include Malibu and Beverly Hills.

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