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California / News and Insight on Business in the Golden
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Median Home Prices in O.C. Hit High of $236,000

Housing: June figure tops May by $10,000, with more than 5,000 sales recorded.

July 15, 1998|DARYL STRICKLAND | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Rising like summer temperatures, Orange County's median home price blazed to an all-time high of $236,000 in June as home sales smashed the 5,000 barrier for the first time since 1989, a real estate research firm reported Tuesday.

Exceeding even the most aggressive forecasts, the county's median price surged $10,000 from May, hitting a record high for the second consecutive month, according to Acxiom/DataQuick Information Systems.

June marked the second time this year that the median price leaped by $10,000 in one month, and experts said the run-up is likely to continue in the months ahead.

"We could have price increases at least above 10% through October, meaning the overall median rate for the county could easily be in the $250,000 range by year's end," said John Karevoll, an Acxion/Dataquick analyst who compiled the figures.

Real estate agents said that sales activity in the affluent region is nearing a frenzy in many markets.

"I have buyers, and can't find the homes," said Michael Dreyfus of Prudential California Realty in Newport Beach, who estimates he has at least six buyers for every home. "Three years ago, I had houses but no buyers."

In Newport Beach, that means $500,000 merely buys an "entry-level" home, Dreyfus said. He has had to comfort potential buyers, their eyes welling with tears, at open houses when homes were bid up higher than they could afford.

Dreyfus said he requires his clients to meet him immediately at a house when it goes on the market in hopes of beating other interested buyers with a bid.

One family, without time to find a baby-sitter, rushed from Riverside County with their toddler to make an offer. Another family, unable to break away, bought a $600,000 home--sight unseen, Dreyfus said.

The price surge affected all types of housing, from basic boxes to mansions, and was felt in all regions of the county. The largest price gains have been recorded in coastal areas.

A factor behind the boom: Prices have rebounded to prerecession highs in most parts of the county. As people realize their homes are again worth more than they owe on them, they have begun moving up, creating more inventory.

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