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AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORECoach Doc Rivers a “fan” from way back of Jazz’s Jordan Clarkson For the six-county Southern California region, the median price set a record seven of the first 11 months. That compares favorably with 2004, when price records were set eight of 11 months. Buyers in the San Fernando Valley struggled with the same scenario. The single-family home median price set a record six times and matched the $600,000 level two other months. Consider this: The median price of a Valley home is now closer to $1 million than $100,000. In 2004 the median price hit a record $505,000 here in June. This time last year I wondered if we would have to wait until June to see if the price peak had been reached. The record fell in January. John Karevoll, a market slicer and dicer for La Jolla-based DataQuick Information Systems, thinks this month will bring another price record when the numbers are tallied in January. That’s because there is typically a rush to close escrows before the end of the year and the sales include the most expensive homes. Karevoll is not going to gaze too far into 2006, either. “The thing about looking into next year is that the volatility of the market makes it almost impossible to look beyond four to six months,” he said. So the first part of 2006 will look a lot like the last part of 2005 with sales continuing to soften and price appreciation moderating. There are a couple of knowns, though. “We know we are nearing the end of the cycle, we know that the rate of appreciation will come down. It’s all a question of degree and those degrees look fairly benign for the first half of next year. After that, it’s impossible to make any reliable forecast.” And there are some big unknowns, he points out. They include what happens to mortgage rates, the federal budget deficit and the balance of payments, a method of accounting that helps a country (in this case us) evaluate the strength of the dollar versus foreign currencies. The stock market’s direction will impact residential real estate, too. Right now the market is soft and that makes housing a good investment, not just for home buyers but big institutional investors like pension funds. “One of the worst things that could happen for the housing market would be if the stock market took off,” Karevoll said. That would mean money would move from secured mortgages and into stocks and mortgage money would start to dry up. “That would be a huge impact on the housing market,” he said. Of course the Valley is not insulated from these knowns and unknowns. And this market will likely mirror the region’s, said Jim Ezell, president of the Van Nuys-based Southland Regional Association of Realtors. “A little more of a return to normal,” he said. “So this time next year do I think the median price of a Valley home will he higher than the same time this year?” “Of course I do,” he replied. (boxes centered?) Reader Richard Rose of Canoga Park sent the following e-mail regarding last week’s column about a California Housing Finance Agency loan program for first-time buyers. “I think that the ‘First Time Buyer’ program is a good idea, but would you please explain how selling tax-exempt bonds doesn’t cost taxpayers any money?” Good question, and here’s the answer according to Jim Folley, the agency’s housing finance chief. The agency sells the bonds to corporations, money market funds and high-wealth individuals. The purchasers don’t pay any taxes on their gain. Money from the sale pays for the agency’s operation and the home loans, so it’s not state funded. Then when someone buys a house he or she also buys stuff to fill it up and pays sales tax. Then every year he pays property and other taxes, adding to the revenue stream of the federal, state and local governments. Gregory J. Wilcox, (818) 713-3743 firstname.lastname@example.orgWant local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! This year’s residential real estate market in Southern California proved as unpredictable as the last five. Home price appreciation was expected to cool into the single digits and sales expected to soften from 2004’s especially strong level. Didn’t happen. Price records continued to fall, though.