Orange County Home Prices Reach New High


Orange County's booming housing market sizzled last month, as the average home price surged to an all-time high of $226,000 in the second-busiest month of the decade.

In the latest indication that the housing market has fully recovered from its recession years, the average house has gained $29,000 in value in the last year alone, Acxiom/DataQuick's housing market survey showed Monday. The median price for May eclipsed the previous record of $223,000 set in January 1991.

The figures show that the typical home in Orange County has regained the value lost in the housing slump earlier in the decade. "Orange County is back," said John Karvoll, who compiled the numbers for DataQuick. "All the declines from the recession are over."

Spurred by a robust economy, low mortgage rates and sustained job growth, a total of 4,507 homes were sold during May, making it the second-busiest month in 10 years behind only April. Home sales were up 25% from transactions in May 1997.

"With the continued economic expansion, now that people feel secure about their job, they're coming out and buying homes," said Esmael Adibi, director of the Anderson Center for Economic Research at Chapman University in Orange.

In some pockets of Newport Beach, where sales had lagged for years, homes are now selling briskly, said Bev White, a real estate agent with Prudential California Realty.

"There are so many buyers and such a lack of inventory that homes are now selling before they hit the market or as soon as they hit the market," White said. "Now, there's nothing for sale unless it is grossly overpriced--and those homes are beginning to sell too.

The sales surge in Orange County, a trendsetter in Southern California's housing market, will benefit thousands of homeowners who bought at the peak of the last real estate cycle, when median prices here jumped to $223,000.

Although values dropped 16% or more in many parts of the region, home prices appear to be surpassing pre-recession levels this summer, something that already has occurred in the Bay Area and in San Diego.

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