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Ventura County

Housing Market in County Still Red Hot

Real estate: Sales in August are the strongest of the year, fueled in part by a nearly 25% increase in the price of condos since 2001.

September 22, 2002|DARYL KELLEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The run-up in Ventura County's housing market continued unabated last month, as home sales and prices increased to near record levels and even condominiums were selling quickly at a hefty markup.

"Sales for August were the strongest so far this year," said analyst John Karevoll of DataQuick Information Systems. "And the only reason they're off a little from last year is because we had one more business day last August."

Although prices are rising and sales are strong, Karevoll said the 20% year-to-year price increases seen in 2002 are likely to slow.

"It'll probably go down to 12% to 15% by the end of the year, but the prices are still going to go up," he said. "There's no indication that they have plateaued."

Actually, median home prices countywide have remained about the same for three months, in the low to mid $330,000s, according to DataQuick. The median is the point where half the dwellings sold for more and half for less.

But Karevoll said this apparent leveling of price reflects the type of dwellings sold, not a price trend: Many more condos were purchased last month than the month before, up from 374 in July to 420. Condos typically sell for much less than single-family homes, thus the median price increased only $3,000 from July to August and was $1,000 below the record of $335,000 in June.

Condo prices marched upward at a rate even faster than the market overall, increasing 24.5% in 12 months to a median price of $238,500 last month, DataQuick reported.

"There are only 24 condos available in Ventura, and you'd be surprised at the prices," said Karen Campbell, president of the Coastal Assn. of Realtors, which represents agents in six west county cities. "They range from $174,000 to $485,000."

The median selling price of all types of homes has risen so sharply--by $54,000 in a year and $144,000 since 1995--that some appraisers now hesitate to confirm the higher value as required by banks to complete a home loan. That can either force sellers to lower the price or compel buyers to increase the size of their down payments.

"There's a willing seller and a willing buyer, but the appraisal comes in too low, so the lender has to back off," Campbell said.

One of Campbell's deals, a $380,000 sale of a three-bedroom home in north Oxnard, is being held up because an appraiser valued the house at $350,000, she said.

New sales figures from Campbell's association--which accounts for about one-third of the county's total sales--suggest that the market may not be as strong as DataQuick's numbers indicate.

While DataQuick reported a slight year-to-year decline in sales of 2.9%, the west county association reported a sales drop of single-family homes and condos of 15%. DataQuick counts a sale when escrow on a property closes, while the realty association counts a sale as occurring when a deal is first signed.

While sales were off in the west county, properties turned over more quickly than a year ago. Single-family homes sold in 33 days on average, compared with 48 in August 2001. Condos were on the market about 18 days before selling, about half the time of a year ago, according to the west county association.

Countywide, DataQuick reported that sales of houses and condos totaled 1,698 last month, up 77 from the month before, but 50 lower than the previous August. That represented the second strongest sales performance for an August since 1988.

After last month's slight increase, Ventura County's median home price was up $50,000 since January.

The market remains strong countywide, although sales were off in upscale Oak Park, where prices for a typical house dipped by $10,000 to $405,000 compared with August 2001.

Sellers in Newbury Park saw the price for a typical house increase $109,000 to $440,00 compared with last year; the price of houses sold in Ojai were up $102,000 to $426,000, and prices in Moorpark escalated $101,500 to $364,000.

Fillmore registered the largest percentage price increase, 45.3%, as buyers paid a median price of $300,000 in August.

Eastern Ventura continued a huge run-up in sales prices, from a median of $299,000 one year ago to $401,000 last month.

Agents said that the continued decline of mortgage interest rates is fueling the boom. Fixed home-loan rates reached 30-year lows or hovered near them last week.

A shortage of homes currently on the market also contributes to high prices.

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August Home Sales

1988-2002

*--* Year Sales Median Price 1988 1,823 $195,000 1989 1,170 $241,000 1990 904 $219,000 1991 862 $216,000 1992 666 $207,000 1993 864 $200,000 1994 1,074 $199,000 1995 1,020 $190,000 1996 1,052 $198,000 1997 1,206 $208,000 1998 1,387 $225,000 1999 1,492 $238,000 2000 1,380 $251,000 2001 1,748 $280,000 2002 1,698 $334,000

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Source: DataQuick Information Systems

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Breakdown by ZIP Code

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