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Realtors point to various factors in Poway-Rancho Bernardo home price fluctuations

Driving from the community of Rancho Bernardo to Poway, one would hardly know they had entered a new town were it not for the “Welcome to Poway” signs that mark the city’s boundaries.

The two communities, which are both lined with small horse ranches, golf courses and community centers, bear striking resemblance to one another upon first inspection.

But looking at annual home price figures released this week by DataQuick Information Systems, the two towns appear worlds apart.

According to the statistics, the median single-family home price in Poway rose from $590,000 in 2005 to $650,000 in 2006, a 10.2 percent gain. In that same period, prices dropped from $650,000 to $610,000 in Rancho Bernardo East (-6.2 percent) and from $898,750 to $845,00 in Rancho Bernardo West (-6 percent).

Local realtors attribute the anomaly to a number of factors including the amount of senior centers in Rancho Bernardo, the lower-than-expected volume of sales in the new 4S Ranch community and the high inventory of $1 million to $2 million homes in Poway.

“I can tell you from my own company, the Poway market had substantially more $1 million to $2 million properties that were available last year,” said David Cabot, president of the San Diego Association of Realtors and a representative of Prudential California.

Cabot added a caveat, however. He said it is difficult to tell from year to year exactly what caused a spike or a dip in housing prices.

“Its one of those crystal ball things,” he said, noting that he was surprised by many of the recent pricing statistics. “There’s really no exact answer.”

Linda Behnke, assistant sales manager with REMAX RB Ranch & Beach agreed that there is no sure answer to why the prices differed so substantially in the two neighboring communities.

She speculated, however, that a large number of sales from senior citizens could drive down the price in Rancho Bernardo. She said their houses are generally priced lower and that seniors generally buy and sell homes based upon their own living conditions, rather than market conditions.

Behnke also said that 4S Ranch, a new community along Interstate 15 did not perform nearly as well as expected this year, hurting Rancho Bernardo’s overall prices.

“What is accounting for that difference is that even though Rancho Bernardo and Poway are similar areas, Rancho Bernardo also includes 4S Ranch, which is a totally new area,” she said. “A lot of the homes were multi-million dollar homes and they were way overpriced.

“For a period they were so overpriced that it kinds of skewed the figures.”

Cabot agreed “4S ranch didn’t do as well as people expected,” but said that homes on the market in Rancho Bernardo last year just didn’t stack up with the Poway properties.

“They’re not as new and they’re not as big and they’re not as expensive,” he said.

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