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U.S., State Home Sales Set Records in June, Spurred by Rate Worries

July 27, 1999|JULIE TAMAKI

Sales of existing homes in California and across the nation reached record highs last month as the specter of rising interest rates pushed a growing number of buyers to take the leap into homeownership, two real estate trade groups said Monday.

June sales of existing U.S. homes rose to a seasonally adjusted annualized rate of 5.53 million--an 8.9% jump over the 5.08-million pace recorded in June 1998, according to the National Assn. of Realtors.

NAR President Sharon A. Millett attributed much of the increase to the "fence-jumping effect," which began this spring as thousands of buyers who feared rising interest rates stopped waiting for better circumstances and committed themselves to buying a home.

The organization also reported that the median sale price rose to $137,000 in June, up 4.3% from a year ago.

The housing market performed even better last month in California, where sales of existing homes increased to a seasonally adjusted annualized rate of 702,100, up 9.5% over June 1998, according to the California Assn. of Realtors.

"What you're seeing is a continued and extremely robust market driven by job growth," said Leslie Appleton-Young, the association's vice president and chief economist. "Overlying this is a robust consumer who will not be denied."

The median price of existing homes in California rose to $226,140--up 8.2% from $209,000 in June 1998.

Year-over-year price increases were more modest in Los Angeles County, where a 2.2% hike boosted the median home price to $206,430. Countywide sales, meanwhile, dipped 4.7% during the period.

"I don't see it as the beginning of a downward spiral," Appleton-Young said.

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