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Residential Sales Picking Up, but Prices Still Lag

Real estate: There are more buyers out there, but most appear to be opting for smaller, less expensive homes, Realtors say.

June 11, 1996|JILL LEOVY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Home sales in the San Fernando Valley continued to pick up speed in May, but prices remained moribund.

The number of single-family homes resold in May edged up 4% from a year ago, increasing for the fifth consecutive month, the San Fernando Valley Assn. of Realtors reported Monday.

A total of 995 homes changed hands, compared with 953 in May 1995, and 987 in April, the group said. So far this year, overall sales are up by 12% compared to the same period in 1995.

These numbers show "fundamental strength" has returned to the long-troubled Valley housing market, according to the Realtors.

But prices are still hovering stubbornly near their seven-year low.

May's average price was $218,400--up 3% from the same month a year ago, but also down 3% from this year's high of $225,500 in March and April.

The median price--the point at which half the homes sold for more and half for less--was $145,000 in May, plummeting 16% from $172,000 in May 1995. And the median price was also down 9% from April's median of $159,000.

"It's still very much a buyers' market, but the buyers are out in greater numbers," said John Marquar, association president, in a written statement.

Marquar said home prices have failed to shake their recession-induced torpor because sales remain weighted disproportionately toward cheaper homes. Most of the homes selling nowadays are priced at $250,000 or below, he said.

On the condominium front, the trend of the last several months continued: Sales increased, and prices sank.

A total of 284 condos closed escrow in May, up 83% from last year's May total of 155, and 8% from the previous month.

But the average price of a Valley condo fell another 8% in May to $98,000 from $106,700 last year. May's median condo price was $80,000, down 17% from last year's median of $96,000.

The month-to-month dip in condo prices was especially sharp: The average price fell 5% between April and May, and the median fell 15%.

The San Fernando Valley Assn. of Realtors--the largest such group in the state--tracks trends in home sales monthly based on reports from its 6,800 members from North Hollywood to Calabasas.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

May Valley Home Sales

NORTH WEST

Avg. Price: $205,500

Sales: 210

NORTH EAST

Avg. Price: $123,100

Sales: 133

SOUTH WEST

Avg. Price: $255,500

Sales: 229

SOUTH CENTRAL

Avg. Price: $204,900

Sales: 193

SOUTH EAST

Avg. Price: $247,700

Sales: 166

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