Valley Home Sales Rise Amid Bargain Hunting : Real estate: First-time buyers help boost activity, but prices fall again in February. Quake-damaged and foreclosed properties contribute to buyer's market.


Bottom feeders continued to dominate the San Fernando Valley housing market in February, as first-time home buyers and bargain shoppers were largely responsible for an overall increase in sales activity, while also pulling down sale prices.

The median price of an existing single-family house in the Valley was $174,000 last month, the lowest median for the month of February since 1988, according to the San Fernando Valley Assn. of Realtors. About two-thirds of all houses sold last month were priced under $200,000, including many bank-owned houses and others that were damaged in last year's Northridge earthquake, association officials said.

"Earthquake-damaged and foreclosed properties represent a major portion of the market, and greatly influence the direction of resale prices," said Pat A. Zicarelli, the association's president.

Last month's median sale price was 3% below the $180,000 recorded during the same month last year, but up 6% from $165,000 in January. The median is the price at which half the houses sold for more and half for less.

Overall, a total of 559 single-family houses were sold in February, up 8% from January, but 12% below the 638 houses that changed hands in February, 1994. The average sale price of a house was $225,300 last month, $4,200 more than in January, but down 3% from $231,600 during February, 1994.

The inventory of single-family houses available for sale remained low, as many homeowners continued to keep their properties off the market to wait for a rebound in prices. There were 5,875 houses listed for sale last month, down 15% from February, 1994.

Last month, the average sale price of a condominium in the Valley plunged to $107,300, down 20% from $121,700 a year earlier, and $100 below the average in January. Last month's median sales price of a condo was $96,000, down 20% from a year earlier, but up 3% from January.

A total of 107 condo sales were recorded last month, up 22% from a year earlier, but down 10% from January.

The Valley realty association, the largest in California, reports housing sales by its 7,200 members from North Hollywood to Calabasas. Its figures do not include sales of most new residences.

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