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Homes: Prices in December compared to those a year ago fell 6.5% in Orange County although they rose 2.5% statewide for the same period.


While home prices were going up a little in most parts of the state during December, they fell 6.5% in Orange County compared to a year ago.

The median price of an existing home in the county was $229,120 in December, the California Assn. of Realtors said Friday, compared to $245,050 in December, 1989.

Sales slipped nearly 19% during the year, the trade association estimated. The figures exclude new homes, a much smaller share of the housing market.

Across the state, home prices rose 2.5% to $192,930 in December from $188,180 in December, 1989.

December's price rose a tiny 0.3% from November. It was the first time in nine months that home prices rose across the state when compared to the preceding month and the same month a year earlier, the trade association said.

The trade association called the figures "encouraging" in the midst of a soft real estate market.

Leslie Appleton-Young, the association's vice president of research and economics, attributed the December decline in Orange County to "concerns about the Persian Gulf crisis and the overall state of the economy." The market's recovery will depend on how quickly the gulf crisis is resolved, Appleton-Young said.

Home sales statewide fell 26.5% between the two Decembers, although more expensive homes in coastal-metro areas have begun selling better, the realtors group said.

The high cost of housing has been one of the dampers on the Orange County housing market, experts say, since its prices are among the highest in the nation and have risen beyond the reach of all but a few county residents.

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