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Hot Housing Market Isn't Cooling Off

The median sale price of a Ventura County home reached $396,000 in June, up 18.2% from a year ago and second- highest in the region.

July 23, 2003|Gregory W. Griggs | Times Staff Writer

Ventura County buyers pushed median home prices to a record $396,000 in June, making the local real estate market the second-most expensive in Southern California.

Demand fueled by historically low mortgage rates resulted in a $61,000 price hike, up 18.2% compared with June 2002. Only Orange County's $414,000 median price was higher.

"People seem to get sticker shock" when they look at home prices, John Karevoll, an analyst with DataQuick Information Systems, said Tuesday. At this rate, local home prices should pass $400,000 by August, he said.

Depending on the sales category, median prices increased by $56,000 to $108,000 in the year-to-year period. Resale home prices rose 16.8%, to a median of $410,000, while new home prices increased 24.2%, to $555,000, according to DataQuick. Condominium prices for resale increased 24.3%, to $286,000.

Throughout the first half of 2003, homes in Ventura County appreciated by 17.5%, a pace Karevoll expects to slow through year's end. He predicts overall appreciation of 15% for 2003.

The research firm, which tracks housing statistics dating back to 1988 when California had its last real estate boom, reported that median prices in Ventura County have more than doubled in the last 15 years -- from $185,000 to $396,00 -- representing an annual appreciation of slightly less than 5%.

"When you go back and look at the whole cycle, it's not that remarkable," Karevoll said.

Sales volume was virtually unchanged for the year -- 1,554 new and resale homes and condos were sold in Ventura County last month, four fewer than in June 2002.

"I believe the number would have been in the 1,700s, but there just aren't enough homes out there for sale," Karevoll said. "Realtors say there are more buyers than there are homes. There are some fundamentals in real estate. One of them is that if people can buy homes, they buy homes. Because of low interest rates, people are buying."

And the buying is occurring throughout the county.

Oxnard experienced sales increases from 19.3% to nearly 37% in June, depending on the ZIP Code. Median prices rose 14.3%, to $392,000, in the 93035 ZIP Code and 39%, to $365,000, in 93030. The 93010 ZIP Code in Camarillo saw 31.4% more sales last month -- 92 compared with 70 in 2002 -- while median prices climbed 9.6%, to $400,0000.

"The market is still hot," said Oxnard broker Jeff Comstock, president of the Ventura County Coastal Assn. of Realtors, which represents agents in six west county cities. "There is still a lot of demand and limited inventory."

The hottest neighborhoods east of the Conejo Grade were in Newbury Park, where 19.3% more homes sold last month than in June 2002 and median prices skyrocketed $150,000, or nearly 36%, to $567,500.

Peter Greer, president of the Conejo Valley Assn. of Realtors, said interest rates below 5.5% allow higher-priced homes to remain relatively affordable. Greer said he reviewed a home in a Thousand Oaks tract that sold for nearly $200,000 a decade ago and now sells for about $400,000.

"Even though the house costs twice as much, the money out of pocket is about the same" as when rates were above 9%, he said.

Lower rates allow buyers to get more house for the money, but Greer said it's important to avoid excessive mortgage debt.

"I always want to express caution for people not to overextend themselves, no matter what the market is like," he said. "Buy what you can afford and stay within your means."

Greer worries that double-digit appreciation may entice more people into real estate speculation -- buying property as an investment with plans to quickly make a substantial profit.

Karevoll said there are no signs that speculative purchases have picked up.

He said the potential for financial gain should be a secondary consideration with a home purchase.

"Buyers need to make sure they have their sensibilities straight and that they buy for the right reasons," such as finding a home they want in a nice neighborhood, Karevoll said. "Trying to time [price increases] is not the right reason."

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Ventura County home sales

June figures for home sales in Ventura County since 1988, with median prices and number of sales.

*--* Price Sales 1988 $185,000 1,823

1989 $231,000 1,415

1990 $221,000 958

1991 $220,000 1,006

1992 $213,000 864

1993 $195,000 842

1994 $200,000 1,218

1995 $193,000 984

1996 $198,000 924

1997 $210,000 1,069

1998 $219,000 1,418

1999 $244,000 1,572

2000 $255,000 1,459

2001 $277,000 1,730

2002 $335,000 1,558

2003 $396,000 1,554

*--*

Source: DataQuick Information Systems

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Home sales by ZIP Codes

Annual sales and median prices for real estate in Ventura County in June compared with the previous year. The figures include new and resale homes and condominiums.

*--* Sales Sales Median prices City ZIP Code 2002 2003 2002 2003 Camarillo 93010 70 92 $365,000 $400,000 93012 80 80 $365,000 $385,000 Fillmore 93015 35 23 $275,000 $330,000 Moorpark 93021 77 76 $340,000 $429,500 Oak Park 91377 51 37 $391,500 $434,000 Ojai 93023 46 33 $377,500 $470,000 Oxnard 93030 95 130 $262,500 $365,000 93033 83 99 $183,000 $250,000 93035 65 78 $343,000 $392,000 Port Hueneme 93041 50 49 $208,500 $260,500 Santa Paula 93060 27 32 $248,500 $252,000 Simi Valley 93063 132 109 $315,000 $365,000 93065 185 135 $302,250 $366,250 Thousand Oaks 91320 109 130 $417,500 $567,500 91360 74 74 $350,000 $392,500 91361 34 36 $502,500 $569,500 91362 108 121 $480,000 $582,750 Ventura 93001 53 45 $351,750 $406,000 93003 92 89 $318,500 $362,000 93004 48 42 $365,000 $450,000 Countywide 1,558 1,554 $335,000 $396,000

*--*

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Source: DataQuick Information Systems Inc.

Note: Countywide totals include sales with unknown ZIP Codes. Median prices include unincorporated areas not shown.

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