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MEDIAN HOUSE PRICE CONTINUES TO SKYROCKET.

Byline: Gregory J. Wilcox Staff Writer

California's median housing price continued to soar in February, climbing an annual 20.7 percent to $394,300 thanks to continued strong demand and tight supply, according to a report released Thursday.

Even with the price run-up, sales increased an annual 3.9 percent, said the Los Angeles-based California Association of Realtors.

The price of a previously owned single-family home did slip 2.9 percent from January's record of $406,220. At $910,000, Calabasas had the state's fifth-highest median price.

The easing of prices on a monthly basis coupled with continued low interest rates could result in an uptick in affordability when the association tabulates that index in the near future.

That will just be a blip, however, because market factors suggest that a price ceiling has yet to be reached statewide and in major metropolitan areas.

``It's not uncommon for the median price in a region to plateau at this time of year, and it tends to move back up as we move into the peak buying season, and in so many ways that kicks off in March,'' said Robert Kleinhenz, the association's deputy chief economist.

The median price, the point at which half the units sold for more and half for less, increased in 91.5 percent, or 345 out of 377, cities and communities tracked by the association.

February's sales uptick would result in 589,220 purchases this year if activity matched last month's pace throughout 2004.

During the year's first two months, sales are running 4.6 percent ahead of the like period for 2003, better than expected. The association's annual forecast called for about a 2 percent annual decline in sales this year.

Southern California also experienced substantial price gains.

--In Los Angeles County, the median price jumped 27.1 percent to $390,010 while sales fell 4 percent.

The latter is a reflection of supply, not buyer disinterest. Kleinhenz said the county's inventory is about half what it was a year ago.

--Ventura County's median price soared 33.1 percent to $528,650 and sales fell 17.9 percent.

--In the Inland Empire, the median price increased 31 percent to $256,801, one of the state's more affordable regions, and sales jumped 25.9 percent.

--In the High Desert, which includes the Antelope Valley, the median price increased 29.3 percent and sales increased 7.1 percent.

The association's inventory index, which measures how long the supply would last at the current sales pace, was 2.3 months, down from 3.4 months a year earlier and making this one of the tightest markets ever. In the San Fernando Valley, the supply is just over a month's worth.

``It's going to continue this way until something drastic happens in the interest rates,'' said Jim Link, executive vice president of the Southland Regional Association of Realtors, which tracks the market in the San Fernando and Santa Clarita valleys.

Gregory J. Wilcox, (818) 713-3743

greg.wilcox(at)dailynews.com
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Article Type:Statistical Data Included
Date:Mar 26, 2004
Words:500
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