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Home Inventory Can't Keep Up

The Valley

Real estate: Sales were 28% above the previous February. Experts say prices will keep rising because demand still exceeds the supply.

March 19, 2002|ANDREW BLANKSTEIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Low inventories and interest rates, coupled with high demand, pushed up San Fernando Valley home sales by 28.5% and median home prices by 12.1% over the same period last year, according to a real estate report released Monday.

With 861 sold in February, single-family homes sales dropped 4.7% from 903 the month before but were well ahead of 670 in February 2001, the Southland Regional Assn. of Realtors report said.

Local industry analysts attributed the month-over-month decline to the traditional seasonal autumn-winter housing slowdown. They predicted that the shortage in available housing would continue to push up prices.

"We don't see any drastic changes in the inventory in the foreseeable, short-term future," said Jim Link, executive vice president of the association.

"Barring any large swing in the market, the inventory situation won't be easing up to any large degree.''

The possibility that the Federal Reserve Board will raise interest rates--thus affecting mortgage rates--in the latter half of the year could be a positive for the local market, Links said.

"Part of the strength of this market is that prices and interest rates will be increasing in the future,'' Link said. "That is fueling the market and getting buyers out there before the prices go up."

February condominium sales increased 15% from January and 16.2% compared with February 2001.

Median condominium prices rose 13.8% to $165,000 in February over the same period a year ago, but a 5.7% drop from January was attributed to seasonal factors, analysts said.

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