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Bright Spots : Some Areas Showing Signs of Recovery After Four-Year Slump in Home Prices

January 16, 1994|From a Times Staff Writer

Is the Southland housing market starting to warm up after its four-year "Big Chill"? Maybe. Just maybe.

It's too early to break out the bubbly--the trend of Southland home prices is still down, but more gently--however, there are some encouraging bright spots.

Recent statistics from both the resale and new home markets suggest that the residential real estate slump is ending in scores of Southern California communities, according to housing industry experts.

On the resale side, which accounts for about 75% of home sales in Southern California, numerous neighborhoods have posted rising home prices and sales volume in the past few months, according to Dataquick Information Systems, which analyzes government records of completed transactions. (See chart accompany this story.)

In the new home market, the Southland's 50 best-selling projects (out of 1,600 tracts) sold an average of almost four houses a week in the third quarter of 1993, according to the Meyers Group, real estate consultants. That's almost 10 times as many as the average project sold.

And the best-selling communities were spread across the Southland, with 17 in Orange County, 10 in San Diego, 8 in Los Angeles and Riverside, 6 in San Bernardino and 1 in Ventura.

Here are overviews of the bright spots in the resale and new home markets, based on interviews with the experts who compile and analyze housing statistics. The best-seller lists are not meant to be all-inclusive; they reflect, however, some glimmers of light at the end of a long tunnel.

Resale Home Market

The top-selling resale communities represent a variety of home categories and locations, said Dataquick President Michael Ela. "We have entry-level homes and high-end homes, urban and suburban homes, primary residences and second homes," he said.

"Watching the market take off five years ago it was clear that individual communities were affected differently," Ela said. "It's clear now that the recovery will take effect in individual markets at different times, and that it has already started in some."

While the number of homes being sold the past few months has gone up compared to sales levels a year ago, prices for Southern California are still going down and are expected to do so at least through this spring, experts believe. But the overall trend tends to hide the sales and price characteristics that are unique to each local market.

"Every community has its own personality, its own statistical ups and downs," Ela said. "Home prices peaked in 1989 in some communities, while in others they peaked in 1992. In other areas, prices stayed stable and never really had that run-up we saw five years ago or the following decline."

Here are brief price-trend descriptions of some of the communities with both price and sales increases compared to a year ago. The numbers are median prices for single-family resale homes only. Condos are not included.

Los Angeles County

El Monte: Prices hit a median high of $165,000 in late 1989 and briefly again in 1991 and then slid down to a low of $150,000 in early 1992. The median has since crept up to a current $156,000 and is holding steady.

Glendora: Very solid. Never really had the spectacular price run-up that other areas had. Prices topped out at around $220,000 in early 1990, slid down to $205,000 in 1992 and have since inched their way up to $210,000.

La Canada Flintridge: Homes in all high-end Los Angeles County areas have been hit very hard. La Canada Flintridge has weathered the storm relatively well. Prices peaked in the high $500,000s in 1990, declined until early 1993 when it hit $435,000 and is up now to around $450,000.

Maywood: Very stable. Median has stayed in the $145,000-$155,000 range since 1989. Right now it's $152,000.

Sierra Madre: Prices wobbled quite a bit here and briefly hit $400,000 in early 1990. They dove down to about $275,000 in early 1991 and have steadily crept up since, the median now is $310,000.

Orange County

Corona del Mar: As high-end areas go, this community is fairly stable. Prices hit their high in mid-1991 at about $750,000 and declined steadily until early 1993 when they bottomed out at $580,000. Right now prices have come back up to the low $600,000s.

Dana Point: It appears that many of Orange County's move-up areas have bottomed out, Dana Point is one of them. The median peaked at $380,000 in late 1989, bottomed out at $275,000 last year, has now settled in at about $300,000.

Laguna Niguel: There was a furious run-up in prices here in 1988-89. The median hit $340,000 in mid-1990, slid down to $275,000 in early 1992, is now back up to $285,000 or so. Prices appear stable right now, but Laguna Niguel can be very jumpy.

Los Alamitos: Prices bounced up and down in 1989 and 1990, reaching a peak in mid-1990 of $340,000 when they started going down. Since early 1991 prices have stayed steady at just over $300,000.

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