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REAL ESTATE : New Housing Sales Dropped 38% in the 4th Quarter of 1990

Compiled by Michael Flagg, Times staff writer

New housing sales in Orange County dropped 38% to 1,066 units in the last three months of the year from 1,712 units the quarter before as the slump in the residential real estate market continued.

And as prices slumped, buyers moved from condos to single-family homes, which were suddenly more affordable again, according to a survey by the Meyers Group, a Corona consulting firm.

The median price of a new house was $323,950 during the quarter, a little less than the third quarter, when it was $325,000. Those are some of the most expensive prices in the nation. But it doesn’t count incentives worth as much as $50,000 that some home builders are offering customers to unload slow-moving inventory.

Condos and other types of attached housing cost a median $180,000, down from $184,990 the quarter before, according to the survey.

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The biggest drop in sales was in condos, which fell 56%--from 1,078 to 475 over the fourth quarter.

During that quarter, condos fell to less than half of the housing units sold for the first time in 1990. They had been outpacing sales of single-family homes because prices for houses were so high, and condos were expected to account for an increasingly large percentage of the market. Instead, they fell to 45% of all homes sold during the quarter, from 63% in the third quarter.

Sales of single-family houses, then, fell only 7% at the end of the year, from 634 houses in the third quarter to 591 in the fourth.

At the end of the year, there were 3,340 unsold housing units in the county, most of them in the southern half where most new construction occurs.

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That large inventory won’t be whittled down to a manageable size until the middle of next year, the Meyers Group said.


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