High Land Prices Raise Costs for Condo Buyers

Times Staff Writer

When Sue Giannone drew No. 18, she knew the $145,000 condominium would be hers. The Garden Grove resident was one of 200 to sign up for the privilege of buying one of 126 units at the Montevista condominiums in Orange last month and came out a winner.

“It’s not my dream house . . . But it’s really tough looking for a house out there these days.”

Giannone was one of nearly 4,000 Orange County residents who have bought new condominiums in the first six months of 1989, according to the latest six-month survey by First American Title Insurance Co.

Area condominiums are selling for more money than ever, First American said.


During the first half of 1989, 3,997 new condos, or “attached units” in real estate jargon, were sold in the county at an average price of $194,000. That compares to 4,495 units that sold for an average $169,000 a year ago.

“We’re seeing a lot more attached units sold now than we saw before, because the price of land has skyrocketed, so its harder to buy unattached homes,” said Mark Hoover, subdivision sales manager for Santa Ana-based First American.

The most expensive units for sale among the 38 complexes surveyed were at Laguna Sur in Laguna Niguel, where 3 1/2 bedroom units can go for as much as $679,000. For that price, a new condo owner can get a wet bar, trash compactor and an unobstructed view of Santa Catalina Island.

“We get people who want a large, maintenance-free area with a great view,” said Marv Huss, sales agent at Laguna Sur.


The county’s lowest-price units for sale, in Santa Ana, have less view but still boast a pool and recreation building. At the Cabrillo Park development, a studio can be bought for $61,400.

In the past six months, most condominiums sold for $140,000 to $150,000, and the median price for a condominium rose about $27,000 to $168,900.

One bright spot in the recent survey for the cost-conscious consumer is that the average price of belonging to a condominium association dropped by about 2% around the county, from $144 per month to $141.

Overall, though, prices are bound to continue moving upward and consumers are advised to brace themselves, experts say.


“The condominium I sold in Garden Grove appreciated much faster that I thought it would. That was the good news,” said Giannone. “The bad news is paying for the new one.”


Sales activity in the first six months of 1989 for 38 new condominium and planned unit developments in Orange County.

Average Sales Price $194,818 Average Square Feet 1,247 Value Ratio (per square foot) $156.23 Median Price $168,900 Average Bedrooms 2.2 Average Baths 2.1 Proposed Total Units 6,028 Total Sold 3,997 Source: First American Title Insurance Co.