YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Ventura County

County Home Prices Soar 16%

Real estate: The jump last year was the biggest since the 1980s. Sales continued to rise in December and analysts say trend will continue.


The price of a typical Ventura County home soared nearly 16% during the last year, the biggest annual bump since the 1980s, as sales continued to surge in December and analysts predicted another good year for 2002.

County home prices rose to a median of $304,000 last month, up $13,000 from November and $41,000 from the previous year, DataQuick Information Systems reported Tuesday.

"Ventura County is now in the '300 Club' for median price [meaning the median has crossed the $300,000 mark] along with Orange County and most of the [San Francisco] Bay Area," DataQuick analyst John Karevoll said.

Ventura County's median price--the point at which half the homes sell for more and half for less--is higher than in all other Southern California counties except Orange, where the typical home sold for $332,000 last month. That compares with a statewide median of $240,000 and a regional median of $247,000.

The county's unit sales total in 2001 also exceeded every other year since 1988, with 1,360 homes closing escrow in December--bringing the 12-month total to 16,426. That easily surpassed the go-go rate of the last two years and nearly doubled the annual sales of a decade ago.

The market was bolstered by low interest rates, which boosted buying power, and a shortage of available houses, which gave sellers leverage, analysts said.

Karevoll thinks the housing market will continue to be a harbor for investors as the battered U.S. economy struggles to rebound. He expects houses in Ventura County to increase in value by 7% to 9% this year, and sales to be nearly as high as in 2001.

"Everything still looks strong," he said. "But the rate of appreciation is probably going to slow down a notch as the luxury market goes fairly flat. There will be more homes selling in the mid- and entry-level market."

The conventional wisdom is that sales will slow this year as interest rates rise, Karevoll said. But he disagrees.

"I don't see any corners being turned yet," he said. "The indicators just aren't there."

Karevoll said signs of a weakening market can be seen when buyers borrow higher amounts and household finances are pushed to the brink to pay the mortgage. Another sign is when sellers are carrying part of the mortgage themselves because banks refuse. Karevoll sees neither of those signs now.

"Another stress factor is the foreclosure level," he said, "and it's about as low as it can go."

Default Rate Slows Over Last 5 Years

About 100 homeowners default on their mortgages each month in Ventura County, Karevoll said, compared with about 250 a month five years ago when the market was crawling out of a prolonged recession.

Sales in December underscore the strength of the local market. While the number of sales was off slightly from the peak in December 2000, prices were up sharply nearly everywhere.

Values jumped, in particular, in west and central Ventura, south Oxnard, Moorpark, Port Hueneme and the Lake Sherwood area near Thousand Oaks.

Not that Ventura County was alone in its housing boom.

Despite a recession and the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, sales for the six-county region reached 303,425 last year, up from 301,894 the year before.

In percentage terms, Ventura County's unit sales jump of 7.2% was second in the region only to Riverside County, at 8.4%. That compares with 1.2% in Los Angeles County and a loss of 7.1% in Orange County.

"The Ventura County market is strong and stable," Karevoll said.

Los Angeles Times Articles