Even though 2006 was a flat-to-down year overall for the housing market in Los Angeles County, a review of full-year data released last week shows that many affordable areas enjoyed a banner year.

But many of the expensive areas got rocked.

There was no housing downturn in Inglewood, for example. The four ZIP codes that make up the city had a combined median house price of $585,000 in December, making it a reasonably affordable area for Los Angeles' pricey market. In 2006, the number of homes sold in those Inglewood ZIP codes increased a whopping 55 percent. The price of homes increased more than 15 percent.

The same is true in Carson, where sales increased 28 percent and prices increased 9.2 percent.

All those numbers were better than the county as a whole. For 2006, the number of homes sold declined 21.8 percent to 82,690 units. The median price from December to December increased 4.8 percent to $550,000.

But at the same time that many affordable areas were enjoying a good, even great, 2006, several high-end areas hit a very rough patch.

Malibu saw its sales volume plunge 45 percent and prices drop 15 percent. Beverly Hills' three ZIP codes had a composite sales volume drop of 35 percent and a price drop of 38 percent.

"It's really a price-driven market and every particular marketplace has its own distinction," said Betty Graham, president and chief operating officer of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage of Greater Los Angeles and Orange County.

The data for the review was provided to the Business Journal by HomeData Corp., a Melville, N.Y. company that tracks housing prices nationwide. (Data for December, including a breakdown by ZIP codes, begins on Page 28.)

Raphael Bostic, economist with the USC Lusk Center for Real Estate, said that in the last 18 months, discretionary sales largely those done to take advantage of the boom of 2002-2005 and not done out of necessity "have been taken off of the market."

As a result, the high-end portion of the market has taken a hit.

"A lot of the housing frenzy just moved people to accelerate their purchases," Bostic said. "So now that pool of people is smaller than it was before."

At the same time, affordable homes tended to see prices accelerate as demand for them stayed brisk.

"There is going to be more competition because they are more affordably priced," said Robert Kleinhenz, deputy chief economist for the California Association of Realtors. "This translates into price appreciation."


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