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Ventura County

Hot Home Sales Cool Slightly in September

The median price of $333,000 is $2,000 below June's peak, but figures are highest for the month since 1988. Surge is expected to taper off.

October 20, 2002|Gregory W. Griggs | Times Staff Writer

The pace of Ventura County home sales has slowed from its summer peak, but September figures released this week were the highest for the month since the 1988 housing boom, and median prices still hover at a third of a million dollars.

"The September we have here is one of the strongest I have on record," said analyst John Karevoll of DataQuick Information Systems, which compiled the sales data for new and existing homes and condominiums. "Prices will continue to go up, there's no doubt about that. But prices probably won't continue to go up as fast as they have been."

The number of homes sold last month was 1,399, up 27 from September 2001. The year-over-year median price was up 16% to $333,000. The median is the point where half the homes sold for more and half for less.

But the September showing couldn't match a particularly robust summer. In August, 299 more homes were sold than in September for a median price $1,000 greater.

And in the peak month of June, when 159 additional homes were sold, the median price reached its highest level of the year at $335,000.

For the first nine months of 2002, more than 1,030 additional homes and condos sold countywide than in the same period last year, Karevoll said. The median price rose 17.2% since January, but is expected to top out around $345,000 through the end of the year.

The year-to-year price increase -- which has ranged from 10.1% to 24.3% so far in 2002 -- should begin to slow down in January, Karevoll said.

"I expect that to taper off by spring, down to about 10% to 12%," he said. "The extra surge the market got when interest rates went down in the summer has almost played itself out."

Sellers in Thousand Oaks, Moorpark and Oak Park realized steady gains last month. The median price of an Oak Park residence was up more than $104,000, or 27.1%, in 12 months to $489,000. Thousand Oaks home prices jumped 14.9% to $455,000 and Moorpark prices rose 37.1% to $380,000.

The exclusive communities of Lake Sherwood and Westlake Village sold four fewer houses last month than a year ago, but prices rose more than 9% to $520,000.

"It's still a strong seller's market," said Geoff Baker, president of the Conejo Valley Assn. of Realtors, whose more than 1,100 members sell property in Thousand Oaks, Oak Park, Westlake Village and Agoura Hills. "It's fairly common to see multiple offers on nearly every property that's out there."

Though prices are likely to level off a bit, Baker said he does not expect a drop in home values in the near future.

In the west county, Camarillo home prices were up 24.8% to $388,000, Ojai homes rose 21% to $381,250 and Port Hueneme prices increased 40.8% to $250,250.

Only two areas in the county experienced price declines in September. Fillmore home prices fell 5.9% to $243,773 and in the eastern portion of Simi Valley the median price dipped $3,500 to $285,000.

Broker Kay Wilson-Bolton, who operates Century 21 offices in Fillmore, Santa Paula and Ojai, said some buyers have started to reconsider entering an overheated market.

"We're starting to see a little resistance from buyers," she said. "They're either not qualifying for loans for the higher prices or they're saying, 'This is crazy. We'll take a step back and see how things are going.' "

Wilson-Bolton, former president of the Coastal Assn. of Realtors, which represents agents in six west county cities, said this last year's rapid price increases come at a cost.

"I've been at this 27 years and I've seen it like this before -- and it's just not healthy," she said. "A good steady [price] growth is better.

"People like to see the appreciation in their homes, but where are they going to go? To capitalize on that growth they'd have to leave the area, and that's not what most people want to do."

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*--* September Home Sales

Year Sales Median Price 1988 1,761 $195,000 1989 1,179 $227,000 1990 650 $215,000 1991 630 $213,000 1992 690 $203,000 1993 827 $196,000 1994 925 $193,000 1995 868 $192,000 1996 857 $190,000 1997 1,055 $202,000 1998 1,396 $224,000 1999 1,374 $246,000 2000 1,385 $268,000 2001 1,372 $287,000 2002 1,399 $333,000 Source: DataQuick Information Systems

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