Ventura County home sales slumped and prices inched downward in May, signaling continued weakness in the area's housing market, a real estate market analyst said Wednesday.
Sales of all homes dropped by 23% in May compared to the previous year, and prices fell 4.6%, according to data released by TRW REDI Property Data.
New home sales were especially hard hit, dropping by nearly one-third since May of last year, and the county's 8.9% drop in new-home selling prices was the largest in the six-county region covered by the report.
The sales information was compiled from county recorder transaction records, said Nima Nattagh, a market-research analyst with TRW.
But the president of the Ventura County Assn. of Realtors, George Kite, was critical of the report, saying the figures distorted what has remained a "flat market" for several years.
Kite said the apparent drop in home prices resulted from a greater number of first-time home buyers. "Most of the buyers out there are buying homes in the low end of the price range," Kite said.
"What we're not seeing are the 'move-up buyers,' who can't get the price they believe their current home is worth."
But the decline in sales reflected in the TRW report came at a time of the year when sales are usually rising, Nattagh said.
"Contrary to the expectation that sales would pick up in May, the reality is they didn't," he said.
He blamed the slump on the continuing economic malaise in the construction and defense industries.