Some urban legends defy debunking. Like a couple that a UCLA economist says pertain to Southern California’s residential real estate market. Under the heading of “Fact and Fiction in the Southern California Economy” Ryan Ratcliff, an economist at the university’s Anderson Forecast, includes the following conclusions. High home prices are driving residents from the coast to the Inland Empire. The Southern California real estate market has finally turned the corner. Conventional wisdom says “yep” to both. Houses near the coast (that includes the San Fernando Valley) do cost a lot of money. The condo price here would have fetched a single-family home a couple of years ago. And a lot of people are moving into the Inland Empire counties of Riverside and San Bernardino. Houses there cost less than here. Good evidence for the first claim. Not so fast, though. “This seemingly obvious assertion is surprisingly difficult to prove using existing data,” Ratcliff said in his report last week on the Southern California economy. That’s because things like home prices and perception can be at odds. Jobs are part of the picture, too, just like in the early 1990s when the market tanked. Sales and prices both fell then, partly in response to each other, but the economy also shed hundreds of thousands of jobs. They went out of state and people followed. That seems to be going on now, too. “I think there is this sort of notion in L.A. that the Inland Empire is just a place you move to to get a cheap house,” Ratcliff said. “This isn’t just a bedroom community anymore. There is a self-sustaining economy that is is creating jobs.” Some people are moving there because they can buy a relatively affordable house and work close to home. Now there is no disputing that the market is in flux, too, with prices basically flat for six months and sales under their year-ago level since the start of the 2005 fourth quarter. That sure suggests a corner has been turned. It’s the opinion of analysts, some economists and real estate executives. Some say the market in January and February is looking a lot like 1997 sales-wise. That year 11,545 single-family houses changed owners, a respectable total. This year’s sales could end up in that vicinity, though the median price it averaged $165,833 for all of 1997 won’t. Jim Link, executive vice president of the Van Nuys-based Southland Regional Association of Realtors, said that in the Valley, the inventory, or properties for sale, has returned to a normal level. It’s happened elsewhere in the region, too. “For the first time in years the buyer has a choice and I don’t think sellers have adjusted to that. They’re still in the mind-set that every thing sells fast and there are multiple offers,” Link said. That’s a sign a corner has been turned. Maybe. “I’m a little hesitant to call that,” Ratcliff said of the turn. January and February are quirky months for residential real estate, and March, since it’s seasonally pretty neutral, is better gauge of direction. Ratcliff offers the following example. In the middle of 2004 there was a significant sales drop in Orange County and some market watchers thought, “Uh oh, here it is.” The market rebounded, though. Ratcliff said there are lots of fake-outs when it comes to forecasting. And some urban legends, too. “None of these end up being absolutely 100 percent one way or another,” Ratcliff said in his final conclusion about the two relating to Southern California residential real estate. A year from now we might find out if he’s right. [email protected] (818) 713-3743 AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREOregon Ducks football players get stuck on Disney ride during Rose Bowl event160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!