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Valley Residential Activity Making for a Hot Spring

Real estate: March prices jump 26% and number of sales is up 27% from a year ago. Pent-up demand credited for boom.


The real estate broker's adage that warmer weather often warms up residential demand has provided little comfort for most of the '90s, when vanishing aerospace jobs sent a constant chill through the San Fernando Valley market.

Now, the seasonal indicator may finally be back in vogue.

In the latest evidence that the Valley's housing market has revived completely, the average sale price of a single-family home jumped in March to $260,900, up 26% from the $207,600 average paid a year ago, and up 3% from the average price in February.

All told, some 1,124 single-family houses sold last month, the most homes sold in March since the boom times of 1989; and last month's figures also marked a stunning 43% jump from the number of homes that closed escrow in February, and a 27% improvement from the sales volume in March 1997.

The numbers show a summer-like buying frenzy that seems to be sweeping much of the local housing market.

"The years of pent-up demand for housing is exploding to the surface," said Bud Mauro, president of the Southland Regional Assn. of Realtors.

In March the median sale price of a single-family Valley house also rose to $180,000, up 13% from the $160,000 median price in March 1997, and up 5% from the median sale price of $172,000 in February. (The median price means that half the single-family houses that sold last month cost more than $180,000 and half cost less.)

Another statistical indicator of the housing market's rebirth is that the number of open escrows--properties in the process of being sold--set a record high for the second straight month, as 1,818 escrows were open at the end of March, up 36% from a year earlier.

Despite this roller-coaster swing upward in sale prices, the average home price of $260,900 last month is still about 1% below the $262,300 average sale price in March 1993, and 15% below the $307,100 average in March 1990, shortly before the local housing market collapsed.

The condominium market also continued its comeback, as the average sale price climbed to $119,800 in March, up 24% from $96,500 a year ago, although this was down 1% from the $121,200 average price in February.

Median sale prices for condos also showed a healthy increase in March, to $105,000, up 24% from the $85,000 median price in March 1997.

A total of 290 condos were sold in March, up 9% from a year ago, and up 31% from the sales volume in February.

The local realty group's sales data typically comes from existing homes and does not include sales figures on new houses or condos.


Single-family housing sales

Average sales price

In thousands of dollars

$260,900 Up 26%

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