Housing Sales in Valley Flourish (Daily News)


By Gregory J. Wilcox, Staff Writer

(Daily News) “San Fernando Valley home sales soared by 78 percent in November from a year earlier as bargain-hunters snapped up foreclosed properties priced at levels last seen in mid-2003, a trade association said Thursday.

The median price of a previously owned home fell by 33percent last month to $375,000, down $182,500 from a year earlier, the Van Nuys- based Southland Regional Association of Realtors reported. That’s an 8.5 percent drop from the $410,000 median reported in October.

The median price of a Valley home has plunged by 43 percent from the record high of $655,000 in June 2007.

But there are some signs that the downturn in the local real-estate market is leveling off, said Jim Link, the association’s chief executive officer.

Year-over-year sales have increased for five consecutive months, and the price decline is showing signs of stabilizing.

“We seem to be bouncing along the bottom, like a little pingpong ball,” Link said. “I think the price erosion has finally leveled off.”

In the 11 months through November, 6,403 homes were sold, 132 more than in all of 2007. But this will still be the second-lowest year for sales since the group began keeping records in 1984.

Daniel Blake, director of the San Fernando Valley Economic Research Center at California State University, Northridge, concurred that the price slide, which began in October 2007, seems to be easing.

“We took some big numbers off (the median price) in the beginning of the decline. As we move on in that experience, I expect the percent drops to decrease,” he said.

But when that will happen remains unclear, he said, and the wild card is the weak economy.

What’s clear is that the $700billion bailout of the financial system is not yet trickling down to local buyers in a substantial way, said Mary Funk, president of the Realtors group. “Many more people are eager to buy, but the credit market continues to be a roller coaster, with lenders changing underwriting rules every day,” she said.

The inventory of homes on the market is now dropping, in part because owners who don’t have to sell are content to remain in their homes while the price decline plays out.

At the end of November, the association said, new listings fell an annual 28 percent, to 866 properties, from Toluca Lake through Calabasas.

And the total number of listings fell 24 percent, to 4,149 properties. That’s about a seven-month supply at the current sales pace.

The report also found:

Condo sales increased 41percent in November, to 199 transactions, from November 2007, and the median price fell 41 percent, to $220,000, the same level as in early 2003. November sales fell 15 percent and the median price 2 percent from October levels.

In the Santa Clarita Valley, the median price of a previously owned house fell by 23percent in November, to $400,000, and sales jumped 55percent, to 172 transactions, from year-earlier levels. From October levels, sales were down 17 percent and the median price down 7 percent.

In Santa Clarita Valley condos, sales increased 63 percent from year-ago levels, to 62 properties, and the median price fell 33.5 percent, to $210,000. Sales were down 30 percent and the price down 13 percent from October.

greg.wilcox@dailynews.com

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