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Rise in O.C. Home Prices Slowing

February 11, 2005|Annette Haddad | Times Staff Writer

Orange County home prices continued to appreciate in January from a year earlier, but the rate of growth appeared to have cooled a bit, statistics released Thursday showed.

The median price for houses and condominiums sold last month rose 18.7%, to $534,000, from the year before. That was down 3% from December's record median of $551,000, according to research firm DataQuick Information Systems.

December was the first month in nearly two years that Orange County's median price rose less than 20%. The median is the point at which half the homes sell for more, half for less.

January sales slipped 5% from a year earlier, to 2,903. It was the thinnest activity for a January in four years.

In Los Angeles County last month, the median price rose 17.6% to $414,000. As with Orange County, prices continue to rise, but at a slower rate.

Los Angeles and Orange counties "are dancing to the same tune," said John Karevoll, DataQuick's chief analyst. The real estate markets are still strong, but growth is slowing from the torrid pace of the last two years.

Along with high home prices, Orange County also has one of the lowest rates of affordability in the state. In December, the proportion of Orange County households able to afford a median-priced home stood at 13%, down from 18% the year before, according to the California Assn. of Realtors.

The Realtors group bases its affordability index on an average mortgage interest rate of 5.76% and a 20% down payment but does not take into account the equity a buyer brings from the sale of his or her home.

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