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Ventura County

Best October Since '88 in Home Sales

Ventura County median price of $331,000, up 15% from a year ago, is expected to keep rising, fueled by high demand and low interest rates.

November 19, 2002|Gregory W. Griggs | Times Staff Writer

Maintaining a vigor not seen since the last Southern California housing boom, Ventura County home sales surged 8.3% in October to the highest level for the month since October 1988.

New figures also show that the price of a typical county home -- after a huge run-up the previous two years -- remained about the same for the fifth straight month.

A total of 1,507 new and existing homes and condominiums sold in October, 115 more than the same month a year ago, according to figures compiled by DataQuick Information Systems. The median price jumped 15.3%, to $331,000, from the same month last year and was the highest October median figure since the company began keeping local statistics 14 years ago.

John Karevoll, an analyst with DataQuick, said the combination of the lowest home loan rates in decades and a constant demand for real estate should keep the area's home sales and prices strong. He predicts the median price will increase to $340,000 before January.

"The demand is fairly stable and can be met because of low interest rates," Karevoll said. "I don't see any signs of anything changing. I know there are numerous prognostications of impending doom, but we don't see it."

Karevoll said that even if the U.S. goes to war with Iraq, the housing market's resiliency should mean only a brief drop in sales. If the conflict were short-lived, the market should rebound in a month or two, he said.

The number of homes sold was up 7.7% from September but down 11%, or 191, from August.

The October median price was down $2,000 from September, but matches the $331,000 reached in July. Since June, when the median was $335,000, county home prices have been within that $4,000 range. The median is the price where half the homes sold for more and half for less.

Even though the median has reached a temporary plateau, economists don't foresee a drop in home value.

"Given the limited supply of homes available and the demand in this area, we don't expect home prices to fall," said Bill Watkins, director of the Economic Forecast Project at UC Santa Barbara.

Watkins, whose project regularly tracks the local economy, said Ventura County was largely unaffected by the recession, when nonstop growth in the value of its goods and services is taken into account.

Such robust economic activity, along with a limited supply of available homes, should continue to push prices higher next year, but at a slower rate, Watkins said.

Calling this "an extremely desirable place to live," Watkins said local home prices, still a bargain compared with the Santa Barbara market, help explain why 9,000 to 10,000 people who work in Santa Barbara County commute daily from western Ventura County.

In the west county, sales in downtown Ventura increased nearly 37%, compared with October 2001, and the median price rose about 40% to $290,750. In north Oxnard, nearly 41% more properties were sold, with a median price of $335,000, a 28.2% increase.

In the east county, sales in Moorpark jumped 47%, with a median price of $390,000, an increase of 23.4%. Oak Park prices dropped 3.4% to $420,000. In the Newbury Park portion of Thousand Oaks, fewer units were sold, but prices were higher, with the median reaching $455,000.

Charles Maxey, dean of the business school at Cal Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks, warns that unabated home price increases will keep more young professionals from living in this area and may force employers to move closer to where their employees can find affordable housing.

"This isn't speculation," Maxey said. "It's the basic forces of supply and demand, which means we have a real problem. If this isn't a short-term bubble and the sort of thing that will clear itself up quickly, it means we have a serious, long-term public policy problem we have to confront."

Cities must allow greater density within their borders to accommodate more housing, Maxey said, adding that despite popular belief, more homes would actually help reduce freeway congestion.

"High housing prices exacerbate the traffic problems, because people have to travel from farther away to come to work," he said.



October Sales

*--* October Median Price Units Sold 1988 $205,000 1,540 1989 $226,000 1,260 1990 $213,000 785 1991 $215,000 737 1992 $205,000 732 1993 $208,000 809 1994 $186,000 810 1995 $190,000 828 1996 $190,000 891 1997 $200,000 1,115 1998 $216,000 1,312 1999 $241,000 1,263 2000 $258,000 1,196 2001 $287,000 1,392 2002 $331,000 1,507


Sales by ZIP Code

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