Southern California home prices are flat for fourth month in a row

By Andrew Khouri | LA Times.

 Home sales

Southern California home prices remained essentially flat in October from the previous month as buyers appeared to hit a wall amid a job market that remains far from robust.

Sales rose 5.4% from September, when they plunged more than usual, but were down 4.4% compared with October 2012.

The median sale price in the region was $383,750 last month, 21.8% higher than October 2012 though basically unchanged for the fourth consecutive month, real estate research firm DataQuick said Tuesday.

“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 in a statement.

Home prices rose rapidly earlier this year as investors and families battled over a shortage of homes for sale, finally convinced the bottom had passed. But since the spring, demand has waned while listings expanded. Investors have pulled back and some families have been priced out or put off their search with their children back in school.

A total of 20,150 existing and newly built houses and condos sold in Southern California in October.

What effect, if any, the partial 16-day government shutdown that began Oct. 1 had on sales is unclear. DataQuick’s numbers represent closed sales, meaning mostly homes that had gone into escrow in September, but also early October and late August, the firm said.

Sales fell over the year in all counties: Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino, Riverside, Ventura and San Diego. While sales for all houses declined, new sales jumped dramatically in some counties.In Orange County,  new home sales shot up 54.5%. In Riverside, new home sales rose 20.7%.

The share of absentee buyers — mostly investors — continued to decline as higher prices made such investments less attractive. Those buyers purchased 26.5% of homes last month, compared with a record 32.4% in January.

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