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Ventura County

Region's Housing Market Remains Strong in January

For first-time buyers, it's a struggle as the median price rises $55,000 over the year-ago period to $339,000. But sales are off from December.

February 21, 2003|Daryl Kelley | Times Staff Writer

If the first month of 2003 is an indication, this will be another good year for equity-rich Ventura County home sellers, but a dose of harsh economic reality for first-time buyers.

County home prices increased more last month than in any January since 1989. Compared with the same month a year before, prices were $55,000 higher, according to DataQuick Information Systems.

"This year started the way the last year ended -- strong," said analyst John Karevoll of DataQuick, which tracks completed sales statewide. "We're into the strongest sales cycle we've seen since the late 1980s."

Ventura County owners sold 1,181 houses and condominiums last month, up from 1,115 for January 2002 and nearly three times more than in the same month 12 years ago, when the county was entering an eight-year real estate slowdown.

The county's median home price -- the point at which half the homes sell for more and half for less -- reached $339,000 in January compared with $284,000 a year before.

"Sales and prices are at very strong but sustainable levels," Karevoll said. "And the numbers show that people are buying in a prudent manner, their down payments are prudent and their monthly payments are prudent."

Because interest rates hover near historic lows, buyers can afford to spend more for a home now than they could a decade ago, he said. For example, the monthly payment on a $300,000 home loan for 30 years at 6% interest is about $1,800.

"We try to identify anything that would indicate that we're at some kind of threshold, and there's not," Karevoll said. "We're not lurching off onto thin ice."

Still, affordability indexes show that fewer than one-third of potential Ventura County home buyers can afford the payments on a typical home, down from more than 40% before the price run-up of the last two years. Yet, in the early 1990s, only about one-fifth of potential buyers could afford a house.

Both the sales and price numbers in January were down sharply from December, which is traditionally a much stronger month, Karevoll said.

Prices usually drop in January, he said, because more high-priced, newly built homes are sold in November and December as developers try to clear inventories. It usually takes until March or April for the prices to return to the December level.

Ventura County's sales outperformed Southern California overall while its price increases were typical of the region. The county's 5.9% sales increase from a year ago compares with the region's 3.9%. The county's 19.4% price increase compares with the region's 19.9%.

DataQuick's sales totals for January reflect purchases completed from agreements reached in the previous 30 to 60 days.

Thousand Oaks owners sold the most homes last month, 233, while Oxnard owners sold 231; 167 were sold in Simi Valley, 126 in Ventura and 119 in Camarillo.

For the month, median sales prices were up the most in two blue-collar west county communities: Santa Paula, 59.5%, and Port Hueneme, 51%. They were followed by sharp price hikes in two affluent east county communities: Oak Park, 41.5% and Moorpark, 30.1%.

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Still climbing

January home sales and median prices for Ventura County. The figures include new and resale homes and condominiums.

*--* Median Median Sales Sales Prices Prices City name ZIP Code Jan. 02 Jan. 03 Jan. 02 Jan. 03 Camarillo 93010 48 57 $294,750 $369,000 93012 48 62 $282,250 $329,000 Fillmore 93015 18 24 $243,750 $262,500 Moorpark 93021 50 62 $296,000 $385,000 Oak Park 91377 32 32 $348,000 $492,500 Ojai 93023 32 32 $372,000 $375,000 Oxnard 93030 103 88 $282,000 $289,250 93033 71 89 $216,000 $208,000 93035 46 54 $264,500 $320,000 Port Hueneme 93041 35 38 $175,500 $265,000 Santa Paula 93060 34 37 $185,000 $295,000 Simi Valley 93063 85 80 $258,000 $285,000 93065 116 87 $276,750 $331,500 Thousand Oaks 91320 83 83 $352,500 $412,000 91360 52 59 $312,000 $365,000 91361 25 20 $510,041 $413,250 91362 69 71 $464,000 $468,000 Ventura 93001 51 26 $279,000 $289,000 93003 63 64 $285,000 $315,000 93004 30 36 $290,000 $359,500 Countywide* 1,115 1,181 $284,000 $339,000

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Source: DataQuick Information Systems Inc.

*Totals include sales where ZIP Code could not be determined.

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