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Sales Soaring, but Home Prices Remain Low in September : Real estate: A total of 937 single-family houses change hands, up 21% from '93, while median sales price drops to $180,000. Trend is expected to continue till 1995.

October 11, 1994|GREG MILLER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

In September sales of single-family homes in the San Fernando Valley once again continued at a brisk pace, but the soaring sales volume did little to boost median sales prices, which continued to scrape bottom.

Last month, sales of single-family homes in the Valley totaled 937, up 21% from September of 1993, when 774 homes changed hands, according to the San Fernando Valley Assn. of Realtors.

Meanwhile, median sales prices fell to $180,000, down 5% from $190,000 a year earlier, though up 3% from August. The median price means that half the homes sold for more than $180,000 and half for less. The average sales price of a home last month was $236,800, down 3% from $244,100 a year earlier, and 3% below the average sales price during August.

With the Valley real estate market still crawling out of a crater created by California's economic recession and the January Northridge earthquake, Valley homes are selling at prices last seen in 1988, the association said.

Jim Link, executive vice president of the association, said 1995 sales activity should continue to improve, but prices will remain flat. "We'll see strong activity, but we don't see the economic factors in place that would drive prices higher," Link said. "The key next year will be to see what type of inventory will come on the market after all the earthquake-damaged properties are repaired or sold."

Quake-damaged properties being sold as-is have deflated median sales prices, keeping prices depressed despite a diminished supply of available homes, which would normally push prices higher. There were 6,236 active listings of single-family houses last month, the association said, down 34% from 9,507 in the same month a year ago.

Link also expressed concern that climbing interest rates would dampen the local real estate market's recovery. If the Federal Reserve continues to boost rates, first-time home buyers "risk being pushed out of their affordability range," Link said. In the local housing market, first-time buyers are driving the real estate recovery, Link said.

Overall, 1,072 single-family homes and condominiums changed hands in September, up 16% from a year earlier, when 924 closed escrow. The latest sales figures were down 3% from August, when home sales for that month hit a six-year high at 1,099, but the association pointed out that sales typically wind down in fall, as summer vacations end and schools reopen.

The median sales price of a condominium last month was $111,500, 13% below the median price of $127,900 a year ago, and 3% below the August median of $115,000.

The average sales price of a condominium in September was $114,200, down 18% from $139,500 a year ago, and down 8% from $123,600 in August.

The Valley realty group, the largest in California, has 7,800 members from North Hollywood to Calabasas. Its figures generally do not include sales of new homes.

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