Housing sales in Ventura County jumped 51.6% in March compared to February, keeping pace with similar seasonal increases in other Southern California counties, according to statistics released Monday by the California Assn. of Realtors.
While housing sales went up 34.4% in Los Angeles County and 33.4% in Orange County, they increased by 54.2% in Riverside and San Bernardino counties and 59% in San Diego County between Feb. 29 and March 31, according to the association's monthly report.
But while Ventura County home sales have risen 6.4% over March, 1991, and prices and interest rates have fallen to enticing levels, local real estate agents predicted Monday that housing sales will remain steady and solid through the usual rush of spring buying.
The median price of a stand-alone, single-family house in Ventura County dropped to $226,680 in March, down from $228,850 in March, 1991, said Chris Taylor, a market analyst for the California Assn. of Realtors.
"Home prices are down because of poor demand last year, and there's a lot of inventory of unsold housing" in Ventura County, Taylor said.
Interest rates are also helping to make houses more affordable: The association estimates that 28% of Ventura County residents could afford to buy a home in February, 1992, up from 18% in February, 1991, Taylor said.
However, prices remain high in Ventura County compared to many other areas of the state, and many prospective home buyers may put off signing a mortgage contract because they still fear being laid off, said Pat Fredericks, president-elect of the Conejo Valley Assn. of Realtors.
"I think Southern California is feeling the repercussions of that fear greater than Northern California is because we have the defense industries," from which so many workers were laid off in the past two years, said Bobbie Courselle, chairwoman of the multiple-listings service for the Ventura Assn. of Realtors.
"But I think buying real estate in Southern California is a wise investment, and I don't think anyone will ever regret buying property."
Mortgage rates at Ventura County banks are hovering somewhere between 8.9% and 9.2%--down about a percentage point from last April, Courselle said.
Although the median price for a home has dropped in Ventura County, the average price is higher, she said.
Despite that fact, business this spring has been steady so far, Courselle said.
"I'm not sure that I know why, except that maybe we're finally seeing the first-time home buyers that have sold their first home are moving into their second homes," she said. "The interest rates are so great, and if they can afford it, why not?"