Sales of Homes Rise 4.4% in June

Times Staff Writer

Led by strong activity in the Inland Empire, combined sales of houses and condominiums throughout Southern California rose modestly in June as buyers continued to confront record prices.

The median sales price for all detached homes and condos sold last month in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego and Ventura counties rose 17.6% from a year earlier to an all-time high of $321,000, according to DataQuick Information Systems, a real estate research firm.

The number of sales notched a more modest 4.4% increase to 31,369. The availability of more affordable homes in Riverside and San Bernardino helped those counties post double-digit gains.

Overall, last month was the strongest June in the region since 1989, when 32,968 homes were sold.

Experts attribute the record prices to a basic rule of economics: Demand is high but the supply of homes is small.

"The low interest rates spur the buying frenzy," said Frank Almeida, a real estate agent based in Riverside. "But there is not enough inventory."

Interest rates have begun to creep upward, reaching their highest levels last week since the beginning of May. But even with the increase, mortgage rates are still lower than they were a year ago and should continue to keep the housing market healthy.

Rates probably would have to rise above 6% before they would affect housing sales, said John Karevoll, an analyst with DataQuick.

Every county in the region posted record median sales prices in June except for Los Angeles, which hit its peak in May. Yet, all counties logged double-digit increases compared with June 2002.

Prices rose 16.4% to $313,000 in Los Angeles County, 15.3% to $414,000 in Orange County, 23.8% to $255,000 in Riverside County, 22.6% to $195,000 in San Bernardino County, 20.7% to $390,000 in San Diego County and 18.2% to $396,000 in Ventura County.

In June, 5,303 home sales in Riverside County marked a 13.7% increase over last year. San Bernardino County sales soared 17.9% to 3,903 homes sold. San Diego County sales inched up 4.7% to 5,192, while the remaining counties all posted less than 1% reductions in the number of home sales.

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