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Southern California home prices flat in September, Case-Shiller says

Southern California home prices flat in September, Case-Shiller says
Home prices in Southern California held steady in September compared with August's levels. Above, a file photo of open-house signs in Huntington Beach. (Bryan Chan / Los Angeles Times)

Southern California's housing market isn't going much of anywhere.

Home prices in Los Angeles and Orange counties held steady in September— the second straight month they failed to rise or fall, according to Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller index, released Tuesday.

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In San Diego, prices dipped 0.1% from August.

On a year-over-year basis, prices are still up, albeit less sharply than before. In L.A. and Orange counties, they rose 5.7% from September 2013, the smallest gain in two years.

After a torrid rebound in 2013, the housing market has mellowed. Families have struggled to afford higher prices and many investors have left the market, no longer seeing a bargain.

Most economists, however, say the slower pace is a good thing. It may give families a chance to catch up, after home prices rose far faster than incomes in recent years.

"It's important for things to cool off a bit in the housing market, because too-fast appreciation risks burning both buyers and sellers," Zillow chief economist Stan Humphries said in a statement. "This slowdown is a critical step on the road back to a normal housing market."

The cooling trend is playing out nationally as well.  Across the U.S., prices climbed 4.8% from a year earlier, the smallest increase since October 2012.

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