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VALLEY HOME SALES DOWN IN AUGUST.

Byline: Greg Wilcox Staff Writer

San Fernando Valley consumers bought 3.3 percent fewer previously owned homes in August than they did a year ago, but the median price, while retreating from a record high in July, jumped 16.4 percent annually, a trade group said Monday.

Analysts and real estate agents said August's results followed a seasonal pattern, and the market should remain strong through the year.

Last month, escrow closed on 1,278 single-family homes, 43 fewer than a year ago. However, sales increased by 66 units, or 5.4 percent, from July, said the Van Nuys-based Southland Regional Association of Realtors.

July is a favorite month for vacations, which slows sales, and business usually rebounds in August, Realtors said.

The median price, the point at which half the homes sell for more and half for less, gained $45,000 over the past 12 months to $320,000. That was $5,000 less, or 1.5 percent lower, than the July record median of $325,000.

It's become commonplace to refer to the hot market as the real estate ``bubble,'' but August's numbers don't suggest it's about to deflate, observers said. At worst, it may just be leaking some air.

``I don't see any sign that the market is going to burst or collapse. I think we're still on firm footing,'' said Nima Nattagh, an analyst at FNC, which supplies information to the mortgage banking industry.

Factors that continue to work in the market's favor are strong demand, tight supply and decades-low interest rates.

None are likely to change soon.

``I don't think the bubble is bursting. I just think that it's probably the market getting back in line,'' said association president Olga Moretti. ``The market is just correcting itself.''

Buyers are showing some resistance to prices they deem too high. Moretti said reasonably priced properties can sell in a few days or a week. If a house is on the market longer, the price is probably too high, she said.

The smaller condominium market saw softer sales and rising prices.

During August, escrow closed on 441 units, 11.8 percent fewer than a year ago. Sales were basically flat from July.

The median price gained 18.5 percent over the past 12 months to a record $188,000. The price jumped 6.8 percent from July.

Pending escrows, an indicator of future activity, totaled 1,757 at the end of August, which was flat compared to a year ago. This suggests that sales will be strong over the next several months.

Meanwhile, listings at month's end totaled 3,593 properties, a decrease of 16.2 percent from a year ago.

For a market the size of the Valley, a pool of 5,000 to 6,000 listings is considered normal.

John Karevoll, an analyst at DataQuick Information Systems, said sales are being impacted by the surge of refinance activity prompted by low interest rates.

Sales that typically would have closed in August just got pushed back to this month, Karevoll said.

``It's very clear that this (kind of market) will certainly continue for the rest of the year,'' he said.

CAPTION(S):

chart

Chart:

(color) VALLEY MEDIAN HOME PRICES

SOURCE: Southland Regional Association of Realtors

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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Article Type:Statistical Data Included
Date:Sep 17, 2002
Words:540
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