11% Increase : Average House Price in County Is $202,240

Times Staff Writer

The average price of a single-family house in San Diego County rose by 11% during January to $202,240, up from $182,320 in December, and up by 30% from $155,438 in January, 1988, according to statistics provided by the San Diego Board of Realtors.

Despite the rapid price increase, demand remained strong. The total resales of houses and condominiums was 1,095 in January, up 64% from the year-ago total of 669, said Karen Rountree, spokeswoman for the realty board.

Board President Chuck Hoffman said the 64% increase in total sales was "not as dramatic as it really appears." January statistics, which include houses brokered by member agents in the cities of San Diego, Chula Vista and El Cajon, reflect sales that were in the works in November and December.

"It looks like a lot of people for some reason closed a lot of transactions at the end of the year, which is somewhat unusual . . . . I think it will take February's numbers to tell exactly what happened," Hoffman said.

Hoffman linked the increase in the average price of a single-family house to San Diego's "excellent" economy and the limited supply of housing.

Other real estate agents linked the increase in sales to interest rate movement, strong demand from families in need of larger houses and the failure of recent growth-control measures.

The Buyers Came Out

"A lot of buyers come out because whenever the interest rate starts to move up just slightly . . . (they think) if they don't get it now, they won't be able to qualify if the rate gets up even higher," said Marjorie McLaughlin, incoming Board of Realtors president and an agent at Century 21-Northcutt Realty in Clairemont.

Donald Cavan, manager of Peat Marwick's Goodkin Real Estate Consulting Group, said growth-control measures on several local ballots last November "panicked a lot of consumers." When growth initiatives failed, some San Diegans sold their existing homes in order to buy more expensive ones, Cavan said.

A surge in home buyers with growing families also helped to fuel the increase, according to Cavan. Baby boomers have a need for larger houses and some have "the financial ability" needed to pay the higher prices, Cavan said.

According to TRW Real Estate Market Information, a total of 35,987 properties changed hands in Los Angeles, Orange, San Diego, Riverside and San Bernardino counties during January, down by 25.1% from December, but up by 28.3% compared to a year ago.

The average price of a home in the five-county area increased to $179,409 in January, up by 2.3% from December and up by 14.2% over January, 1988, according to TRW data.

Rountree said San Diego County's condominium sales were healthy because affordable units are now available for first-time buyers. The average price of a condominium in January was $118,000. The median price for houses and condominiums was $161,000.

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