Despite the stories of buyers snatching up houses the moment they hit the multiple listings service, the average house took 54 days to sell in the southern half of the county last year.
But that was a nearly a week less than the year before, when it took an average of 60 days to sell, even though prices were a lot lower.
Those figures are courtesy of Grubb & Ellis Co., which Tuesday released some statistics on the 14 markets in which it operates.
The average length of stay on the market, based on figures from local boards of Realtors, varied from 84 days in San Juan Capistrano--one of the south county’s more expensive markets with an average home price of $409,316--to a short 32 days in El Toro, one of the least expensive markets with an average home price of $161,933.
Not surprisingly, the highest average prices were found in posh Newport Beach, which averaged $560,000 per house last year.
Separately, the California Assn. of Realtors reported earlier that the average house for the entire county cost $211,402 last year, an increase of 24.9% from the $169,277 average in 1987 and the highest increase in the state.
What is driving prices so high and so fast?
Population in Southern California is growing faster than the national average, creating more demand, said Dennis W. Macheski, research director for Grubb & Ellis in this region.
And while prices are high, the county is affluent and some communities have a high proportion of two-income families, Macheski said Tuesday.
Still, demand for housing as seen in home sales is growing at only 3% to 5% a year, while prices in some communities grew 30% last year.
The reason for the disparity between the two figures, Macheski said, is that some buyers were pushed into the market by the fear that local governments will restrict new home construction still further. These buyers worry that prices will continue to grow until they can no longer afford any house.
Speculators who buy houses while gambling that they will continue to appreciate rapidly are also boosting prices, Macheski said.
Used homes should continue to sell briskly this year in Orange County, though not quite so rapidly as last year, local Grubb & Ellis executives said.
And prices will not jump 25% on the average, as they did last year.
That outlook for the market matches what other experts have been saying.
RESALE HOME MARKET IN SOUTH COUNTY
Includes resale single-family homes and condominiums
Average Days 1988 Average % Change on Market Area Sales Price From 1987 1988 1987 Capistrano Beach $275,000 +7.7 70 95 Costa Mesa $275,000 +35.5 68 47 Dana Point $240,346 +14.7 51 53 El Toro $161,933 +15.7 32 44 Irvine $236,000 +24.2 NA 30 Laguna/South Laguna $403,000 +46.9 56 56 Laguna Hills* $211,886 +14.5 39 57 Laguna Niguel $263,861 +3.3 52 89 Lake Forest $222,577 +15.8 35 55 Mission Viejo $214,464 +19.5 35 44 Newport Beach $560,000 +2.8 68 59 Rancho Santa Margarita $157,697 NA 34 NA San Clemente $287,500 +33.9 80 75 San Juan Capistrano $409,316 +130.0 84 43
* Does not include Leisure World
Source: Grubb & Ellis Co. and county real estate boards