Housing sales in Ventura County continued to lag in September even though 3,000 jobs have been created since the start of the year and mortgage rates are falling, an economist said Friday.
A total of 786 residences were sold countywide last month, down 9.5% from the 869 sold in September, 1994, according to a report by TRW-REDI Property Data.
Sales were mixed across the county, with Simi Valley and Moorpark showing sharp drops in the number of escrow closings, according to the report.
In the west county, the eastern end of Ventura showed slightly higher sales over the previous year while housing sales in other parts of the city remained stable or declined slightly.
The sluggish housing market in an otherwise vigorous economy suggests that sellers are holding off putting their homes on the market until prices start to inch upward, said Joe Bonanno, an analyst with the Economic Forecast Project at UC Santa Barbara.
At the same time, prospective buyers may be waiting to see if real estate prices drop lower, Bonanno said. The average price of a residence sold in September was $229,334, about $6,000 less than for the same month last year, the report states.
"If you believe in supply and demand, then eventually the supply of homes will dwindle and prices will be driven up," Bonanno said.
In September, 120 residences were sold in Simi Valley, down 25 from a year earlier. And 45 residences were sold in Moorpark, 27 fewer than in September, 1994. In east Ventura, meanwhile, 10 more housing units were sold this year than last year, while purchases elsewhere in the city remained nearly flat.
Erika Pongracz, a realtor in a Century 21 office that covers Simi Valley and Moorpark, said September housing sales traditionally are slow as parents focus on sending children back to school.
And while interest in eastern Ventura County remains high, particularly among suburbanites looking to flee the San Fernando Valley, few people can afford to sell their current home, she said.
Many bought their homes during the red-hot real estate market of the late 1980s, she said. Housing values have dropped as much as 20% since then, leaving few in a position to come up with the down payment for another move, Pongracz said.
"Most are just hanging in there like the rest of us poor slobs who have no equity left," she said.
Ernest V. Siracusa, Jr., a real estate market analyst with an office in Westlake Village, said he also talks with many developers and realtors who say San Fernando Valley residents still see Ventura County as a choice destination.
But many are afraid to make a long-term investment because their confidence in the employment market is poor. People do not have the feeling of job security that they did just a few years ago, Siracusa said.
"They are still reading in the paper that XYZ corporation is going to lay some people off," he said. "People are asking themselves, 'What's next?' "
It is a psychology that is not unique to Ventura County, said Nima Nattagh, an economist with TRW-REDI. In Orange County, housing sales dropped 15% in September contrasted with the previous year, Nattagh said.
"This is a pattern we have seen throughout Southern California."
Even as consumer confidence lags in the housing market, other sectors of Ventura County's economy are continuing to improve, UC Santa Barbara's Bonanno said.
About 3,000 new jobs have been created in Ventura County since January, he said. And mortgage rates in Southern California slipped to an average of 7% in September, contrasted with June when they were as high as 7.4%, Bonanno added.
Mortgage rates are expected to continue to fall for the remainder of this year and possibly for several years to come, he said.
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Ventura County House Sales
Month, 1994 Month, 1995 Number Average Number Average City/ZIP code of sales price of sales price CAMARILLO 93010 59 $232,975 51 $246,284 93012 34 $314,818 25 $267,640 93066 4 $262,250 2 $399,000 FILLMORE 93015 15 $157,536 14 $151,577 MOORPARK 93021 72 $244,302 45 $244,671 OAK VIEW 93022 6 $177,250 5 $158,200 OJAI 93023 17 $228,719 11 $217,818 OAK PARK 91301 36 $274,412 30 $318,100 OXNARD 93030 61 $179,942 75 $197,104 93033 47 $150,744 32 $149,776 93035 30 $257,916 29 $235,569 PORT HUENEME 93041 15 $149,679 12 $143,125 SANTA PAULA 93060 16 $161,344 20 $144,684 SIMI VALLEY 91307 6 $406,167 n/a $n/a 93063 44 $186,988 63 $186,825 93065 101 $218,777 57 $216,473 THOUSAND OAKS 91320 34 $228,515 39 $245,782 91360 54 $214,475 57 $230,438 91361 22 $360,477 21 $285,247 91362 72 $361,148 65 $362,438 VENTURA 93001 16 $210,773 18 $201,111 93003 50 $215,848 48 $192,096 93004 53 $215,981 63 $203,403
Source: TRW-REDI Property Data