Home prices in five of Southern California's six major counties hit new highs in June as demand for housing continued to far outstrip supply.
The median price in Ventura County reached the half-million-dollar mark for the first time and sales in Riverside and San Bernardino counties set records.
Overall, the median price -- the point at which half the homes sold for more and half for less -- of a Southland home rose to a record $406,000 in June, DataQuick Information Systems reported Thursday. That was up 2.5% from May and 26.5% from June 2003.
"Things are still going strong," said DataQuick analyst John Karevoll. "We're not seeing a lot of slowdown."
The number of sales increased nearly 11% from the same time last year, as 34,731 homes sold, the most in a single month since 35,339 were sold in August 1988.
Recent rises in interest rates have sent more buyers into the market and led more owners to put homes up for sale, boosting inventory, analysts said. Though it is still a seller's market, buyers are finding more choices and taking longer to make decisions, industry experts said.
"We've got more homes to sell and now it takes a few days, not a few hours, for them to sell," said Riverside area real estate agent Mike Horan.
Ventura County's median was $500,000, a 26.3% jump from a year earlier, as sales slipped 5.7%, to 1,466.
In Orange County, the region's most expensive market, the median rose 30.4% from a year earlier, to $540,000, as sales declined slightly. The median peaked at $543,000 in May.
Riverside County saw its median surge 25.1%, to a record $319,000, as sales jumped 19.6%, to a record 6,343.
In San Bernardino County, the median hit a record $246,000, a 26.2% increase, as sales totaled 4,292, an all-time high.
San Diego County saw the smallest percentage gain of any county, with prices rising 19%. That was still enough to set a record, with a median of $464,000. Sales were robust, rising 19.6%. San Diego might be further along in the real estate cycle, Karevoll said, and the smaller price gains combined with robust sales could be a model of what the rest of the region will look like later this year.
Los Angeles County prices, reported earlier this week, gained 32.3% -- the most of any county -- to $414,000. Sales in the county, which accounts for one-third of all Southland home sales, rose 9.5%.
"It's normalizing," said Brian Aubol, a real estate agent with Coldwell Banker who specializes in the Palos Verdes area. "It's good for the buyer in that there are more properties to choose from."
July is expected to be another strong month as interest rates have stayed steady or even dropped. Rates on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages averaged 6% on Thursday, down from 6.32% in mid-June, according to Freddie Mac.
In Woodland Hills, Prudential California real estate agent Mary Ellen Graham said she was still selling homes over the asking price, but was seeing a lot more inventory and homes taking longer to sell.
"We keep thinking that this has got to stop, but we've been saying that for awhile."
Concern that rates would rise again after the Nov. 2 presidential election prompted Dr. Ediberto Soto, a cardiologist in El Paso, to pay $469,000 for a two-bedroom home in Los Angeles for his two children who are attending college here.
"The rents alone for my daughter and son would have been $3,000 a month," he said. "This is a good investment."
Brad Blackwell, national sales manager with the mortgage unit of Wells Fargo & Co. in Pleasanton, Calif., said recent interest rate activity had spurred "some home buyers to get off the sidelines and make a purchase. Anyone who hasn't looked at the direction of interest rates needs to take a look and see they have come back down again."
The number of mortgages Wells Fargo financed for Southern Californians increased more than 40% in June from a year earlier, Blackwell said.
Signs that the market could collapse are "largely absent," DataQuick said, noting that foreclosure rates remained low, and down-payment sizes were stable. The rates of "flipping," in which homes are bought and sold within six months or a year, are increasing somewhat but are still relatively low.
* (BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX) Southland home sales
Home prices continued to rise rapidly across the Southland. Sales and prices for new and resold homes by county:
Median Median No. No. price price sold sold % 6/03 6/04 % County 6/03 6/04 chng. (000s) (000s) chng. Los Angeles 10,662 11,673 +9.5% $313 $414 +32.3% Orange 4,755 4,749 Ð0.1 414 540 +30.4 Ventura 1,554 1,466 Ð5.7 396 500 +26.3 San Bernardino 3,903 4,292 +10.0 195 246 +26.2 Riverside 5,303 6,343 +19.6 255 319 +25.1 San Diego 5,192 6,208 +19.6 390 464 +19.0 So. California 31,369 34,731 +10.7 321 406 +26.5
Source: DataQuick Information Systems