California home prices and sales slip in October

California home prices fell in October as sales continued to edge lower.

The state's median home price was $256,000 last month, a 0.4% drop from October 2009, marking the end of 11 consecutive months of year-over-year gains, San Diego real estate research firm MDA DataQuick reported Thursday. The median price — which is the point at which half the homes sold for more and half for less — was also down 3.4% compared with a month earlier.

The housing market has been weakening since a sales boost from tax credits evaporated this summer. Richard Green, director of the USC Lusk Center for Real Estate, said the October decline represented a lackluster market but not a significant departure from the trend of recent months.

"We are still just bumping along," he said. "I don't think there is a particularly remarkable change here one way or another. Ever since the tax credit went away, this is where we have been."

The median Bay Area home price was $395,000 in October, a 1.8% decline from the same month last year and a 3% decline from September. In the Southland, the median was $283,000, up 1.1% from the same month last year and down 4.2% from September.

Statewide sales fell to 32,669, down 20.9% from a year earlier but only 1.5% from September. In October 2009, buyers were hurrying to purchase homes before a federal tax credit expired. (The credit was later extended by Congress.) So although this October's sales were weak compared with that month's, they were not in a free fall. And volume typically falls in October as the sales season slows for the winter months.

Foreclosures remained an important part of the resale market. They constituted 37.1% of the market for previously owned homes last month, up from a revised 35.6% in September and down from 40.9% in October 2009. The all-time high for foreclosure sales was 58.5% in February 2009.

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