U.S. Markets open in 1 hr 59 mins

Southern California homebuying sees October uptick

SAN DIEGO (AP) -- Southern California homebuying climbed last month compared with September but sales fell short of a year earlier, a research group reported Tuesday.

A total of 20,150 houses and condominiums were sold in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego and Ventura counties in October, up 5.4 percent from a month earlier, DataQuick reported.

However, sales were down 4.4 percent from October 2012, and they were 14.4 percent lower than the October sales average, the San Diego-based company said. Southern California hasn't topped average sales in any month in more than seven years.

The median price paid for Southern California homes — meaning half the homes sold for more and half for less — was $383,750. That was a half-percent increase from September.

It was the fourth month in a row that the median price "more or less moved sideways," although it was up nearly 22 percent from October of last year, DataQuick said.

"Our read on the market is that after playing some rapid catch-up, home prices hit a bit of a midsummer wall," DataQuick President John Walsh said. "It took a very specific set of circumstances to trigger price gains of 20 percent or more over the course of a year. We had a pitifully low number of homes for sale, incredibly low mortgage rates and unusually high levels of investor purchases. In recent months, each of those drivers has reversed somewhat."

Sales of middle- and high-priced homes continued to outpace those of lower-cost ones. The number of homes sold for less than $200,000 dropped nearly 40 percent in October compared with the same month a year earlier, while sales of homes for $800,000 or more rose nearly 33 percent, DataQuick reported.

"Low-end deals have been relatively weak largely because of an inadequate supply of homes for sale," DataQuick said in a statement. "Many owners still can't afford to sell their homes because they owe more than they are worth, and lenders aren't foreclosing on as many properties, further limiting supply."