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VALLEY AND VENTURA COUNTY BUSINESS

February Home Sales in Valley Increase, but Prices Decrease

March 18, 1997|JILL LEOVY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Home resales edged up slightly in the San Fernando Valley in February, but despite shrinking inventories, both median and average prices fell.

"That's the biggest surprise--that prices aren't going up," said Mel Wilson, president of the San Fernando Valley Board of Realtors. "Normally when inventories dwindle, prices firm up."

Wilson suggested that foreclosures continue to drag down prices.

A total of 659 single-family homes closed escrow in February, up 5% from 626 in February last year. It was the busiest February for home sales in eight years.

But the median price of a single-family home fell 14% to $155,000 from $180,000 in the same month last year. The average price fell 4% to $203,1000 from $210,900.

The median price is the point at which half the homes sold for more and half for less. Many real estate experts consider the median price a more realistic measure of the market's middle ground because it gives less weight to outlying prices.

Wilson said that most houses are changing hands at the lower end of the market, consistent with the trend of recent years. First-time buyers are crowding into the market with the ethnic buyer--Latino, Armenian and Korean--heavily represented in their ranks, he said.

People employed in the entertainment industry are buying the upper end of homes, but "the sleepers are those in the $250,000 to $500,000 range. For the last several years, there has not been a lot of activity in those ranges."

Sales of condominiums also increased in February. A total of 249 condominiums closed escrow during the month, up 34% from the 186 that closed escrow in February 1996.

The median price of a Valley condominium fell 7% to $82,000 from $88,000. The average price also slipped 7%--to $98,100 from $105,000 last year.

The Realtors' association tracks sales numbers monthly from its 6,200 members from North Hollywood to Calabasas.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

February Valley Homes Sales

NORTH WEST: Avg. Price: $187,800; Sales: 165

NORTH EAST: Avg. Price: $127,600; Sales: 121

SOUTH EAST: Avg. Price: $229,600; Sales: 107

SOUTH CENTRAL: Avg Price: $230,000; Sales: 115

SOUTH WEST: Avg Price: $238,500; Sales: 148

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