How high can Southern California home prices go? A lot, experts say – Orange County Register

All hair stylist Erin Bond wants is a decent two-bedroom condo in Orange County, preferably in Huntington Beach.

But all she can afford is $400,000 to $420,000.

In a county where the median price of a condo in May was almost $500,000, she’s not sure there’s anything in her price range she can live with.

“It’s pretty disappointing,” said Bond, 35. “You can’t even buy anything that low. I mean, there are things out there, but they’re not nice.”

So Bond’s plan is to wait until the market goes down again. And if it doesn’t, “I would continue to rent.”

A lot of homebuyers are facing Bond’s conundrum.

For 62 straight months, Southern California home prices have gone in one direction. Up.

Five years ago, you could snatch up a median-priced condo in Orange and Los Angeles counties for about $280,000, 76 percent less than today’s prices. A median-priced house cost $323,000 in L.A. County five years ago and $495,000 in O.C., about $260,000 less than today’s prices in both counties.

That was then.

What should a buyer do now?

Will prices keep rising? Or as Bond thinks — along with some real estate agents — are prices close to the top?

We asked a half-dozen economists and industry analysts what the future holds for home prices in the region. Among their answers:

  • Southern California home prices aren’t about to drop. In fact, they believe prices will keep rising for two more years, at least, and possibly longer.
  • The market isn’t in a bubble — yet — although bubble talk is starting to “raise its ugly head” at cocktail parties, one economist said. Some analysts are saying Southern California home prices are showing signs of being overvalued.
  • If you’re thinking about buying a home, now just might be the time to act — provided you don’t overextend yourself and you plan to live there awhile.

Here are five key questions about where Southern California home prices are heading in the future.

Are we at the peak?

Not one of the…

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