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Existing-Home Sales Hit 7-Year High

May 09, 1997|JESUS SANCHEZ | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Riding on California's economic expansion, first-quarter sales of existing homes reached the highest level in seven years as the state's housing market continued to dig itself out from a deep slump, according to a real estate survey released Thursday.

The median sales price during the January-March period also continued to improve, but at a much more modest pace than sales. The statewide median sales price rose 0.5% from the previous quarter to $174,600, according to figures compiled by the California Assn. of Realtors.

"The rebound in the California housing market we first witnessed in 1995 has now reached significant proportions and reflects a rejuvenated economy statewide," said association President Bob Kulick in a statement.

During the first quarter, 531,160 single-family homes were sold on a seasonally adjusted, annualized basis, according to the real estate report. The quarterly sales figures--which do not include sales of new homes or condominiums--represent a 7.3% increase from the fourth quarter of 1996.

The first-quarter results were the highest since the first quarter of 1989, when 601,730 homes were sold on a seasonally adjusted, annualized basis.

The quarterly sales report is in line with other recent home sales and price surveys that show a slow but steady improvement in the state housing market. The real estate market has begun to turn around throughout much of Southern California but at a slower pace than in Northern California.

"The continuing home price increases in the northern part of the state have now filtered south to San Diego, Orange and Santa Barbara counties," said Leslie Appleton-Young, chief economist for the Realtor group. "Although not evident in all sectors of Southern California, we can still detect clusters of home-price appreciation, even in counties still experiencing a drop in the median home prices."

Real estate broker Fred Sands said sales on the Westside of Los Angeles, for example, were very strong during the first quarter. The company's agents opened escrow on 14% more homes during the first three months of the year than during the same period last year, Sands said.

"The market has made its transition. This should be a banner year."

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