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Southern California home prices rise in December

SAN DIEGO (AP) -- A research firm says Southern California home prices rose sharply last month as buyers snapped up pricier properties along the coast.

DataQuick said Tuesday the median price for new and existing houses and condominiums reached $323,000 in December, up nearly 20 percent from the same period of 2011. The sales price was just shy of a 53-month high of $330,000.

Nearly 20,300 homes were sold during the month, a 5 percent increase from a year earlier.

DataQuick says more than one of every three homes was purchased with cash, many of them for more than $500,000. The trend toward cash purchases reflects difficulties getting big loans and investors wanting to park assets in real estate.

Sales were strongest in Orange County, the region's most expensive. Sales fell in inland areas.