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Ventura County

June Home Prices Set Record as Sales Dip

July 20, 2002|DARYL KELLEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Ventura County's blistering housing market finally cooled a bit in June as sales dipped, but the price of a typical house rose sharply to another record--$335,000.

"The sales pace is still incredibly strong and stable," said analyst John Karevoll of DataQuick Information Systems. "Supply is the issue. There just aren't enough houses on the market right now."

Sales of houses and condos totaled 1,558 last month, down 103 from the month before and 172 from the previous June--but they still represented the third-strongest performance for June in 13 years.

Sales were also off year-to-year in the rest of Southern California, because last June was such a spectacular month, Karevoll said.

Still, after last month's $13,000 increase from May, Ventura County's median home price--at which half of sales cost more and half less--was up $58,000 from June 2001 and $142,000 higher than in 1995, at the bottom of the real estate market.

"There's no indication of weakening," Karevoll said. "As shaky as the rest of the economy is, especially the stock market, real estate is looking very good to a lot of people. Buyers want in."

But for the first time in months, buyers began to balk at ever-escalating prices, real estate agents said.

"I'm seeing houses stay on the market a little longer," said Karen Campbell, president of the Ventura County Coastal Assn. of Realtors, which represents agents in six west county cities.

"People are pricing their homes a little high," she said. "They're taking the latest [comparable sale] and pricing their homes $20,000 or $30,000 higher. Sometimes they do sell, but more are staying on the market longer."

For example, buyer hesitation pushed the number of homes available in the west county from 490 two months ago to 586 today, Campbell said. As the inventory builds, true competition will return and prices will stabilize, she said.

"But there are still a lot of buyers out there," she said. "And we still have a very short supply."

The market remains strong in both the east county and the west.

Sellers in Newbury Park and west Thousand Oaks saw the sales price of a typical house increase $114,000 to $434,000 in 12 months. Simi Valley and Oak Park registered sales increases, although closed escrows were off 9.9% countywide.

Bolstered by buyers from Santa Barbara, the prices of homes in midtown Ventura continued their run-up--increasing from $239,000 to $318,500 in a year.

Fillmore, once the county's most affordable city, saw a 48% sales increase that helped boost the median price of a house $64,000 to $278,000. In central and coastal Oxnard, prices were up 31%, to $345,000.

So far, this year has been the best for home sales in recent history, surpassing even 1988, the premier year of the 1980s boom.

For the first six months of 2002, sales were up nearly 13.1% from 2001, which was also a very good year. And prices were up $46,000 on a typical house, according to DataQuick, which counts sales when escrows close.

Agents say they see more of the same for at least a few months, since the continued decline of interest rates for mortgages will only fuel the boom. Fixed home loan rates reached a 30-year low last week. Rates for a fixed-rate 30-year mortgage were about 6 1/2% a few months ago, but are now only 6%.

"When the rates went down last week, we saw an influx of buyers," Campbell said.

But Karevoll said that Ventura County's 21% price hikes from last June to this June are not sustainable gains.

"I don't think prices are going to go down," he said. "But these increases will play themselves out. The high prices will bring more properties onto the market, and that's when the prices will start to ease off."

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

*--* June Home Sales Year 1988-2002 Year Sales Median Price 1988 1,823 $185,000 1989 1,415 $231,000 1990 958 $221,000 1991 1,006 $220,000 1992 864 $213,000 1993 842 $195,000 1994 1,218 $200,000 1995 984 $193,000 1996 924 $198,000 1997 1,069 $210,000 1998 1,418 $219,000 1999 1,572 $244,000 2000 1,459 $255,000 2001 1,730 $277,000 2002 1,558 $335,000 Source: DataQuick Information Systems

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Home Sales Breakdown by ZIP Code

(Text of infobox not included)

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