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Ventura County Review

County Housing Market Is Showing Signs of a Rebound

October 18, 1994|JACK SEARLES

The Ventura County market for mid-priced and even expensive new homes has begun to pull out of a long slack period, housing executives report. In fact, one expert predicts that sales of new homes in the county will double by 1996.

In eastern Ventura, R. L. Hertel-Constructors Inc. has sold 53 Citrus Hills houses, priced above $260,000, since the development opened in March. "It's going very well," said Tom Habbick, Hertel's president. "We're addressing a move-up market that hasn't received much attention in recent years.

"There's a pent-up demand in this area for mid-priced houses. Most projects seem to be priced for first-time buyers, in the $180,000 to $200,000 range."

At the other end of the county, near the Los Angeles County line, David H. Murdock's Sherwood Country Club development has redirected its marketing toward more modestly priced houses in the $500,000 to $750,000 range, and buyers are responding.

When Murdock started building homes at Lake Sherwood in early 1991, they were priced from $1 million to $4 million. With the recession taking hold, there were few takers.

In the past year, however, some luxury features have been trimmed, making lower prices possible, says Tony Lennon, who became sales director in early 1993. That, plus an improving economy, seems to have worked.

"I think we're on our way," Lennon said. "We've recorded 35 sales so far this year. Mostly, they're in the lower-priced houses and in our townhouses, which are priced from $475,000 upward. But people are also showing interest in a new group of houses we're building in the $1.4-million to $1.6-million range." In all, Lennon says 75 to 80 homes have been sold by Murdock at Sherwood.

Lennon, a cousin of the singing Lennon Sisters, says events such as the senior tennis Champions tournament with Jimmy Connors and Bjorn Borg held at Sherwood Country Club just concluded, probably helps by bringing potential buyers into the area.

John Pfister, vice president of marketing research for Chicago Title & Trust, believes that Ventura County and California in general will stage a dramatic housing comeback in the next two years. Pfister, who annually conducts a nationwide construction survey, reports that the number of new homes per 100 households declined in Ventura County last year. The county ranked 74th among 81 metropolitan areas surveyed.

"That's all going to change dramatically," Pfister said. "California is going to make a comeback that will surprise a lot of people." He's confident that the region's housing market will recover from such blows as the Northridge earthquake, urban unrest, defense cutbacks and the recession.

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