The tumult in San Diego’s housing market made the pages of the Los Angeles Times this weekend in a piece describing the “pessimistic outlook” shared by analysts, agents and builders.

The reporter, Elizabeth Douglass, mentioned a street in Chula Vista called Long View Drive where a bunch of houses are for sale or in foreclosure. It reminded me of our look at Little Lake Street in Otay Ranch, where about a dozen of the street’s 43 homes were for sale or in foreclosure at that time in August.

But the rest of the story about “no sign of relief in San Diego housing slump” painted a confusing and sometimes inaccurate picture. There are a couple of misspellings — the story refers to the Little Italy condo development called laVita as “La Vida” and to developer D.R. Horton Inc. as “D.H. Horton Inc.”

But most significant is a statement near the end of the story:

Yet some experts see hopeful signs in San Diego because the sharp declines in median home prices that have hit the region for several years running have started to ease.

In August, the median home price in San Diego County was down 4%, to $475,000, compared with $495,000 in August 2006, according to DataQuick Information Systems. (Emphasis added.)

The problem? Median home prices haven’t been sharply declining here for “several years running.” June 2006 was the first time since December 1996 that the median price for a home was less than it was in the same month the year before, according to DataQuick. Before that, it was bounding upward in double digits for years.

And the reporter quoted a DataQuick analyst:

The number of home sales in August fell 19.4% compared with the year-ago period and marked the 38th straight month of declines. Yet the decline for Southern California as a whole — 36.6% — was much larger, said DataQuick analyst John Karevoll.

“San Diego does show a clear trend that the market is going to level off in Southern California, or at least the declines will get smaller,” Karevoll said.

And, even more importantly, the median price is a confounding measure. For more on that, reread this piece by our Nerd’s Eye View blogger, Rich Toscano.


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