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Home Sales Show Strong Gains While Prices Continue to Fall : Property: The August surge of 21% of single-family house sales was the best showing this year.


Single-family house sales in the Valley showed a strong gain in August over a year ago, but that good news was tempered somewhat by the continued decline in housing sale prices and an ongoing slump in the condominium market.

The San Fernando Valley Assn. of Realtors reported that combined sales of existing single-family houses and condominiums jumped 13% last month, to 959 from 852 in August a year before. The gain was fueled by a 21% surge in single-family house sales, to 833 last month from 691 in August, 1992.

Last month's single-family sales total was also the best showing so far this year, and a continuation of a trend of rising sales that began in November. The monthly tally was also the highest for August in three years.

But there's no mistaking the severity of the real estate recession and difficult recovery. Even with mortgage rates at their lowest in a quarter of a century, the total of 959 houses that sold last month was 42% lower than the record high monthly total of 1,648 set in August, 1988.

Also, sale prices of single-family houses continued to fall in August. The average price of a house sold last month was $241,600, down 11% from the $270,900 average a year earlier.

The median price, at which half the houses sold for more and half sold for less, declined 9% last month to $195,400, from $215,000 in August, 1992.

"We're seeing a flood of first-time home buyers jumping into the housing market," said Alice McCain, president of the Valley realty association. "They know they can get so much more for their money, more than they ever dreamed possible."

McCain said the move-up market also seems to be picking up because of falling prices and low interest rates, and added that the foreclosure rate is waning as lenders appear more willing to negotiate with homeowners experiencing financial difficulties.

But the condominium market in August continued its downward trend, with sales plunging 22% to 126 from 161 in the year-ago period. The August total was also 16% behind July, when 150 condominiums changed hands.

The average price of condominiums sold in the Valley last month was $139,000, 7% below the $149,200 average price in August, 1992. The median price fell 2% last month, to $135,000 from $138,000.

The number of residential properties for sale also continued to shrink to 12,594 in August, down 8% from a year before and well below the record inventory of nearly 15,000 houses and condos listed in July, 1992. Of last month's total listings, 9,874 were single-family houses and 2,720 were condominiums.

The Valley realty association, the largest in Southern California, reports housing sales by its 7,800 members in the area, from North Hollywood to Calabasas. Its figures do not include sales of most new residences.

August Valley House Sales

North West

Avg. Price: $249,600

Sales: 31


North Central

Avg. Price: $230,000

Sales: 132


North East

Avg. Price: $152,900

Sales: 117


South West

Avg. Price: $285,160

Sales: 263


South Central

Avg. Price: $259,800

Sales: 109


South East

Avg. Price: $231,600

Sales: 181

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