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HOME SALES, PRICES SOAR.

Byline: Gregory J. Wilcox Staff Writer

Propelled by low interest rates and strong buyer demand, sales of single-family homes in the San Fernando Valley soared to the second highest level ever for October, with the median price up 21.6 percent from a year ago, a trade group reported Monday.

With 1,195 homes sold last month, an 18 percent increase from a year ago, October's sales already make this year one of the best ever and put the full-year sales record, set in 1988, within reach, according to the Southland Regional Association of Realtors.

The robust sales activity came even as the median price soared to $318,500.

So far this year, 11,671 homes have been sold, compared with 12,501 in all of 2001. Sales this year trail 1988's record 15,263 by 1,343 homes.

``This was already looking like a banner year long before the latest round of cuts in interest rates,'' said Olga Moretti, association president. ``People are buying homes as fast as they come on the market.''

Realtors say conventional wisdom is that the market slows during the year's final quarter, when shoppers turn their attention to the holidays. That pattern, however, has not held for the last six years. For example, October's numbers broke through the 1,000-sales barrier during five of the last six years, and the market remained strong during November and December, too.

The same kind of surge is likely this year.

Pending escrows at the end of October jumped 14.7 percent from a year ago to 1,664 transactions, an October record. That was further proof the sales record is in jeopardy because many of those deals will close by year's end.

John Karevoll, an analyst at the real estate market research firm DataQuick Information Systems, said that things look good.

``There is nothing sexy about these numbers. With mortgage rates where they are and the lenders willing to make loans, most people who want to buy are able to buy,'' he said.

Last month in Los Angeles County, consumers bought 10,422 homes, the most since 11,403 were sold in 1989, he said.

``We're seeing just an incredible amount of mid-market and entry-level activity,'' he said.

Softening is taking place at the higher price ranges, but this market also remains strong, Karevoll noted.

A lot of the credit goes to mortgage rates that hit a new low last week, the seventh time that's happened this year. The rates moderate sticker shock associated with rising prices.

Last month's median price, the point at which half the units sell for more and half for less, advanced $56,500 from 12 months earlier.

Jim Link, executive vice president of the Van Nuys-based Realtors group, said this kind of rate environment helps shoppers maximize their dollars.

``There is also renewed interest in real estate as a wise place to put investment funds,'' Link said.

The tight supply and rising prices continue to push first-time buyers into the condominium sector, where sales jumped an annual 14.1 percent and the median price soared 23.8 percent to a record $198,000.

The median price appreciated $39,000 in the sector over the last 12 months.

The 422 condominium sales last month were the highest total for October since 444 in 1989.

Analyst Karevoll said that this kind of momentum will carry over into the new year.

``The meat-and-potatoes segment of the market is just very strong right now, and there is no indication that is going to change,'' he said.

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SALES, PRICES SOAR

Source: Southland Regional Association of Realtors

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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Article Type:Statistical Data Included
Date:Nov 19, 2002
Words:605
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