The San Fernando Valley's housing market is flirting with the $400,000 price point again.

And it may bust through that barrier as the year ends because we're tantalizingly close.

In November the median price of a Valley house reached $399,000, according to the Van Nuys-based Southland Regional Association of Realtors.

It's the third time this year that the median price -- the point at which half the homes cost more and half less - has gotten close.

The median settled at $399,000 in April and even got to $399,900 in June.

Prices are on the rise not only here but across the Southland because a shift is taking place in the market.

Distressed properties -- homes in a short sale or foreclosure -- now account for a smaller share of total sales. And the higher priced segment of the market is becoming active again.

The median price did get back to $412,000 in December 2010 but has been under that level ever since.

And it has been in $400,000 territory just five times since 2008.

And $400,000 is a milestone of sorts.

The association's price data dates back to 1987 and the first one calculated was $148,000 that February. It sure seemed like a lot of money back then.

It took 16 years and seven months to finally get to $400,000 - August of 2003.

We have recovered some of the equity lost in the market bust. It started in June 2007 when the median hit a record $655,000 and appears to have ended in December last year when it fell to $339,000.


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Last month we were 17.7 percent above the low. But we are still 39 percent under the peak.

All this adds up to the expectation that the housing market will do OK in the coming year.

"I think the housing market is going to pick up and we will see a bit of consistent activity," said economist William W. Roberts, director of the San Fernando Valley Economic Research Center at California State University, Northridge.

Don't expect gangbuster sales numbers, though.

This year's market will be lucky to match 2011, when 6,335 homes sold.

That's an anemic number and not far off the cycle low of 6,271 in 2007 and well under the peak of 13,878 in 2003.

But that was not a sales record.

For that we have to go way back to 1988, when there were 15,263 sales, according to the association.


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