YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections


Valley Home Sales Increase 13.8% Over '96

Real estate: Average price posts 6.7% gain as market's strength continues. Inventory of properties shrinks.


Sales of single-family homes in the San Fernando Valley jumped 13.8% in August over a year ago, while average selling prices rose 6.7%, reflecting an unseasonably hot real estate market.

Normally, August signals the slowdown of the house-hunting season, but last month 1,070 single-family homes closed escrow, compared with 940 a year ago, according to the San Fernando Valley Assn. of Realtors.

It was the fourth consecutive month that home sales topped 1,000 units.

"The market is still exceptionally strong," said Mel Wilson, president of the real estate group. "The August home-sale increase is a clear indicator of a strengthening local economy."

One offshoot of this revival has been shrinking housing inventory, Wilson said. At the end of August, the number of single-family homes on the market slipped to 4,875, from 5,651 a year earlier--a drop of nearly 14%.

"Buyers are learning that they no longer can pick and choose the best listings and haggle endlessly over price," said Jim Link, executive vice president of the association.

Kathy Mehringer, sales manager at Fred Sands in Westlake Village, agreed.

"Business is extremely vigorous, and we are striving to maintain inventory because it's selling very quickly across the board," said Mehringer, who oversees two offices that cover an area stretching from the western San Fernando Valley to Camarillo in Ventura County.

One Westlake Village property, which was listed at $579,000 and had difficulty closing escrow, received three backup offers, she said.

Terry Palmer, the sales manager at Century 21 Green in North Hollywood--which does most of its business in the $140,000-to-$220,000 price range--also noted a rise in activity.


"We have been experiencing multiple offers on many of our listings. If they are priced on the money, there's going to be activity," said Palmer.

Last month, the average Valley home sold for $232,500, up 6.7% over the $218,000 average in August 1996.

At the same time, the median home price increased 10% in August to $175,000, compared with $159,000 a year ago. The median is the point at which half the homes sold for more and half sold for less. August was the sixth consecutive month that the median home price increased.

The single-family median resale price hit bottom this February at $155,000 and until this month has posted only small gains, ranging from 1% to 3%, the association said.


Nevertheless, Wilson warned: "It may be years--if ever--before prices return to the levels of 1989 and 1990."

Before the California economy went bust, the median home price wavered around the mid-$200,000 mark, properties would receive multiple offers the day the "For Sale" sign went up and buyers were bidding 5% and 10% above the list price, Wilson said.

Today, homes that foreclosed during the recession are reselling at prices far below their original ones, dragging down market values, he said.

Sales in the condominium market also picked up last month, as did prices.

In August, 248 condos were sold, up 8.3% over the 229 sales a year earlier.

Last month, the average selling price for a condominium was $107,700, up 2.9% from $104,700 a year earlier. But the median condo sales price rose 9.2%, to $95,000, from $87,000 in August 1996.

The San Fernando Assn. of Realtors tracks sales by its 5,800 members from North Hollywood to Calabasas.


August Valley Home Sales

North East: Avg. Price: $121,600, 1997; $132,100, 1996; -8%; Sales: 154

South East: Avg. Price: $280,700, 1997; $269,500, 1996; +4%; Sales: 194

South Central: Avg Price: $226,100, 1997; $221,600, 1996; +2%; Sales: 216

South West: Avg Price: $287,700, 1997; $258,500, 1996; +11%; Sales: 239

North West: Avg Price: $207,400, 1997; $193,200, 1996; +7%; Sales: 247

Los Angeles Times Articles