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Home Resales in Valley Trail Dismal '92 Levels : Real estate: It would take 16 1/2 months to deplete the inventory of unsold residential properties at March's sales pace.


The local housing market, as yet unable to shed its lackluster performance this year, posted its third straight monthly decline in March with a 16% drop in resales of single-family houses and condominiums, the San Fernando Valley Board of Realtors said Monday.

The board said 736 single-family houses and condominiums changed hands last month, down from 878 in March, 1992. The drop followed consecutive 7% year-to-year declines in the first two months of this year.

However, the March activity did climb 30% from the 512 sales in February of this year, and real estate brokers have said they've noticed an upswing each month in the number of escrows being opened. Those pending sales could translate into higher actual sales in the coming months.

Sales of single-family houses alone last month fell to 622 from 669 a year earlier, and condominium sales plunged 45%, to 114 units from 209 in March, 1992.

That means that housing sales, through the first quarter at least, are trailing a 1992 sales rate that itself was dismal. The sale of 9,805 properties in 1992 marked the first time in a decade that a full year's sales fell below 10,000.

The inventory of unsold properties also remains high. In March, there were 9,469 single-family houses and 2,702 condominiums that were listed for sale but still begging for buyers, a stockpile that would take 16 1/2 months to deplete at March's sales pace.

Board officials focused on the fact that sales advanced from the prior month's results. "We do not do anyone a service by saying the market is going gangbusters, because it's not," board President Lon Adams said in a statement. "But activity certainly has picked up as buyers become aware of the opportunities and sellers adjust asking prices to the new economic reality."

The board also took note that escrows have risen markedly in each of the last four months, and stood at 924 in March compared with 504 in December. "This is yet another strong indicator that the resale market is on the rebound," Adams said.

The average resale price of a single-family house in March was $262,300, up 2% from $256,500 the prior month but down 3% from $270,100 a year earlier.

The median price was $203,000, down 8% from $220,000 a year ago but up 2% from $199,000 in the previous month. (The median means half the houses sold for more than $203,000 and half sold for less.)

The same trend held true in the condo market, where the average resale price in March was $151,500, down 5% from $159,200 a year earlier but up 5% from $144,500 in February. The median last month was $144,000, down 6% from a year ago but up 13% from February.

The Valley realty board, the largest in California, reports housing sales by its 7,900 members in the area from North Hollywood to Calabasas. Its figures do not include sales of most new residences.

March Valley House Sales NORTH WEST Avg. Price: $295,600 Sales: 26 SOUTH WEST Avg. Price: $294,500 Sales: 210 NORTH CENTRAL Avg. Price: $245,400 Sales: 93 SOUTH CENTRAL Avg. Price: $302,800 Sales: 77 NORTH EAST Avg. Price: $155,000 Sales: 92 SOUTH EAST Avg. Price: $267,900 Sales: 124

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