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O.C. Homeowners More Confident

Survey: Sixty percent of owners said buying a house in Orange County would be a good or excellent investment.

December 03, 1996|MELINDA FULMER | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Orange County's rebounding economy this year has sparked confidence in its long-struggling housing market, according to the Orange County Annual Survey released Monday by UC Irvine.

Sixty percent of homeowners surveyed earlier this fall said they thought buying a home in Orange County was an excellent or good investment, up 10% from last year.

"I think that homeowners in Orange County are feeling that there is a lot more certainty than there was a year ago," said Mark Baldassare, a UCI professor of urban planning who conducted the poll.

With the county's bankruptcy over, the number of local jobs increasing and lingering confusion about the bankruptcy's impact on schools and public services clearing, Baldassare said, homeowners now feel confident that their homes won't lose any more value.

Of the remaining homeowners in the survey, 30% thought buying a home was a fair investment and 8% thought it was a poor choice--a 10% decline from the previous year.

The improved sentiment about real estate in Orange County is indicative of improving attitudes about housing throughout the region, as prices have inched up and sales have increased in the last year.

Renters, however, were not as optimistic about the housing market. Only 45% of all people who rent their apartments or homes thought a home purchase was an excellent or good investment, a 4% increase from last year but still below 1993 and '94 levels.

Most industry observers attribute that attitude to the lack of significant rent increases in the apartment market, which has made renters less motivated to buy.

"There are some pretty good rental bargains around Orange County, and values are not escalating like they were in the 1980s," said Larry Webb, president of Irvine-based Laing Homes. However, he said the housing market is starting a gradual recovery that could last about four years. He said sales at his company are up 30% from the year before.

But most brokers say a full-blown real estate recovery is more perception than realty.

The survey, which was conducted in telephone interviews Aug. 30 to Sept. 8 and polled 1,000 Orange County adults, tracks trends in attitudes about the economy, quality of life and issues that affect the community, such as housing.

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