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Southern California home prices flat, sales tumble in February

Southern California home prices held steady last month while sales tumbled to a six-year low, further evidence that the market has stalled after a torrid rebound.

The median home sale price in the six-county Southland inched up 0.8% from January to $383,000, research firm DataQuick said Wednesday. Prices shot up in the first half of 2013, but the region’s median has been about the same since June.

Still, the February median price was 19.7% higher than the same month in 2013 because of rapid price gains early last year.

Buyers scooped up 14,027 new and resale condos and houses in February, 12% fewer than a year earlier. It was the fifth consecutive month that sales fell compared with the previous year.

Sales were the lowest for a February since 2008.

Sales continued to fall even though buyers have more homes to choose from. Though inventory remains tight across Southern California, there were more homes for sale in January than a year earlier, according to Realtor.com.

In the Inland Empire, which includes San Bernardino and Riverside counties, listings rose 30.5% compared with January 2013. In Los Angeles County, listings rose 3.4%.

Continuing slow sales could indicate buyers are turning away from higher prices and mortgage interest rates, said DataQuick President John Walsh.

“The drop in housing affordability is enough to nudge some out of the market,” Walsh said in a statement. “Other would-be buyers have no doubt called ‘time out’ while reevaluating their housing priorities, or watching for signs the market has overshot a sustainable price level.”

The housing market tends to cool in fall and winter, and the spring home buying season should provide a clearer picture of the market’s health.

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