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SINGLE-FAMILY HOME SALES RISE TO HIGHEST LEVEL IN 27 MONTHS

 LOS ANGELES, Aug. 9 /PRNewswire/ -- Buoyed by low interest rates and extremely favorable prices, sales of existing single-family homes rose 23.6 percent during July compared to a year ago, the San Fernando Valley Association of Realtors reported today.
 The 828 single-family escrows that closed last month represented the best monthly total so far this year and the highest figure since April 1991, when 865 escrows closed, Association statistics indicated.
 The 23.6 percent increase also was the best year-to-year improvement since February 1990, when closed escrows rose 27 percent.
 "July was a good month, but if recovery is here it's very slow," said Alice McCain, president of the San Fernando Valley Association of Realtors. "The healthy July total was just a continuation of the steady increase we've seen since spring.
 "Buyers have realized," McCain said, "that prices and interest rates definitely are in their favor."
 Many sellers, however, have yet to accept the reality of the local residential real estate market, she said.
 "Some sellers are holding out for higher prices," McCain said, "but I don't know what they're waiting for."
 Indeed, Association statistics indicated that resale prices continued to head down, with the median price falling 9.7 percent to $195,000 compared to the $216,000 median reported in July 1992.
 The median also perfectly indicated the price range where most sales are occurring, said Jim Link, the Association's executive vice president.
 "It's still very much a first-time buyers' market," he said, "with 417 sales, or half of the total, going to properties priced under $200,000."
 Healthy sales in the entry level price ranges, however, have yet to translate into strong activity in homes traditionally considered to be in the trade-up market.
 Existing owners "may take what they think is a huge price reduction when they sell," Link said, "but many are recapturing double that reduction when they trade up."
 "There are wonderful buys out there and fantastic opportunities," McCain said, "but the trade-up market unquestionably is still very difficult.
 "Some sellers are holding out, hoping and waiting for the market to turn around," she said. "They keep wondering whether we really are in recovery."
 A full-fledged recovery will occur, Link said, but only when "California's economy shows signs of becoming more stable and more vibrant.
 "When that happens," he said, "the housing market will reflect that change and start to come back."
 Link and McCain also noted that condominium sales were off 16.7 percent compared to a year ago, but rose 6.4 percent from the June total.
 Association statistics indicated that the 150 condominiums that closed escrow last month were down 30 transactions from July 1992. Condo sales generally have languished as first-time buyers have switched their focus as falling prices have brought single-family homes within reach of many families.
 "Of the 150 condo sales," Link said, "only 14 were priced over $200,000 and only 43 went for more than $160,000."
 With 71.3 percent of the condo sales under $160,000, clearly condominiums remain an open avenue into home ownership for first-time buyers, he said.
 McCain said: "People who just a year ago thought they couldn't buy slowly are realizing that they can, in fact, own property. Low prices and low interest rates make it possible for them to enjoy the personal and tax benefits of owning and forever stop throwing money away on rent."
 Both McCain and Link noted that higher priced condos, while a minor part of total condo resale activity, represent a unique niche in the market, a niche that shows signs of added vibrancy.
 Upper-end condominiums, they said, often are popular among retirees or people who simply want luxury and convenience without the cost and upkeep of a single-family home. A growing number of retirees are selling their large home, Link said, and trading down to a condominium.
 A total of 12,854 properties were listed for sale on the computerized Multiple Listing Service operated by the San Fernando Valley Association of Realtors. Of that total 10,082 were single-family homes and 2,772 were condominiums.
 The total active inventory was down 14.2 percent from July 1992 when 14,976 properties were listed for sale.
 The San Fernando Valley Association of Realtors is a local trade association comprised of 7,900 members who serve the real estate needs of the vast community spanning the Valley from North Hollywood to Calabasas. It is the largest local Association in California and the third largest nationwide.
 -0- 8/9/93
 /CONTACT: Alice McCain, president, 818-993-1300, or Jim Link, executive VP, 818-786-2110, both of San Fernando Valley Association of Realtors; or Dave Walker, media consultant, of Walker Associates, 818-222-1335, for San Fernando Valley Association of Realtors/


CO: San Fernando Valley Association of Realtors ST: California IN: FIN SU:

JB -- LA013 -- 0723 08/09/93 11:35 EDT
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Date:Aug 9, 1993
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