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VALLEY HOUSING SALES INCREASE MAY HERALD SUSTAINED ECONOMIC RECOVERY

VALLEY HOUSING SALES INCREASE MAY HERALD SUSTAINED ECONOMIC RECOVERY
 LOS ANGELES, April 13 /PRNewswire/ -- Indicators of a budding economic recovery emerged during March as sales of existing single- family housing rose 12.4 percent compared to a year ago, the San Fernando Valley Board of Realtors reported today.
 The 878 single-family homes and condominiums that closed escrow last month were 95 sales higher than March 1991 and up 325 sales over this February.
 "This is an excellent indicator that real estate once again is leading the way out of recession," said board President Lorrie Griffey. "Like last year, however, one major question remains unanswered -- will the housing market sustain this sales pace or is the March increase merely a temporary respite?"
 The March total represents only the second significant sales increase since the market began its free fall last September. In each of those six months, except December, sales dropped lower than the previous month, board statistics indicated.
 Month-to-month sales totals paint a dramatically improved picture -- the March total was 58.8 percent higher than February -- but real estate industry experts stressed that monthly comparisons do not paint an accurate picture of market activity.
 "Month-to-month percentage changes in sales activity are too easily distorted by multiple and often extraneous factors -- a short or long sales month, holidays, the switch to year-round schools, vacations and winter storms, " said Jim Link, the board's executive vice president. "Statistics comparing year-to-year totals offer the best barometer of market trends."
 Year-to-year numbers, in virtually all sales categories, indicated the local residential housing market has risen about 12 percent compared to March 1991. This time last year, just as the Persian Gulf war drew to close, real estate experts hoped the market was on its way to recovery, only to see those hopes dashed as the national economy plunged deeper into recession.
 "We think the market will show a slow, steady increase this year," Link said, "but we'll have to wait to see if this truly is the beginning of recovery."
 Single-family average resale prices fell last month, down 4.1 percent from March 1991, indicating the continuation of a strong buyers' market, Link said. The 669 single-family sales went at an average $270,100, off $11,500 from March 1991.
 Areas of the Valley that reported the most sales had average resale prices of less than $300,000. That suggests continued strong activity by first-time buyers, but it also holds the promise of increased activity for the moribund trade-up market.
 "As affordable properties are gobbled up," Link said, "we should see more activity in higher price ranges as the people who just sold go house hunting.
 "We should soon begin to see cracks in the dam, a slow trickle at first, that may benefit the tradeup market and further sustain the recovery," Link said.
 Unlike single-family home prices, condominium average and median resale prices rose to near record highs. The average resale price of the 209 condos sold last month was $159,200 while the median price tied the record high, $154,000, set in September 1991.
 "It's clear that people are taking advantage of low loan interest rates, great prices and the largest inventory in decades," Link said.
 A total of 12,866 properties -- 10,052 single-family homes and 2,814 condominiums -- were listed for sale last month on the computerized Multiple Listing Service operated by the San Fernando Valley Board of Realtors. That figure was 7.9 percent higher than March 1991.
 The San Fernando Valley Board of Realtors is a local trade association composed of 8,000 members who serve the real estate needs of the vast community spanning the Valley from North Hollywood to Calabasas. It is the largest local board in California and the third largest nationwide.
 -0- 4/13/92
 /CONTACT: Lorrie Griffey, president, or Jim Link, executive VP, of the San Fernando Valley Board of Realtors, 818-786-2110, ext. 690; or Dave Walker of David Walker Associates, 818-222-1335, for the San Fernando Valley Board of Realtors/ CO: San Fernando Valley Board of Realtors ST: California IN: FIN SU:


KJ -- LA011 -- 7787 04/13/92 13:00 EDT
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Date:Apr 13, 1992
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