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Southern California home prices inch down in September

U.S. home prices are slightly above the peak set in July 2006, according to the Case-Shiller national home price index.
(Bryan Chan / Los Angeles Times)

Southern California home prices dipped slightly in September from a month earlier, as the housing market entered a traditionally slower season.

The region’s median price -- the point where half of homes sold for more and half for less -- fell 0.7% from August, to $435,000 last month, real estate firm CoreLogic said Monday.

The median is now off $7,000 compared with the figure from June, when prices hit an eight-year high following a robust spring selling season filled with bidding wars.

However, the strong performance earlier this year means that September prices were still up 6.1% compared with those a year earlier.

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CoreLogic’s data reflect closed sales in September, meaning most deals opened escrow in August or early September. Demand tends to cool in late summer and the fall, because most families want to move before their children start school.

“The seasonal forces are in place,” said CoreLogic analyst Andrew LePage. “It is normal to see a dip in the median.”

LePage said a shift in the types of homes that were selling, as well as prices that have made homes less affordable, have also likely kept the region’s median roughly flat for three months.

The housing market, however, is stronger than in 2014, agents and economists have said. Robust job growth has sent home sales up this year and that continued last month.

Buyers in the six-county region scooped up 13.1% more houses and condos last month than in September 2014.

Uncharacteristically, home sales inched up 0.4% from August as well, but that follows an unusual drop in August sales, which CoreLogic blamed on low inventory after strong sales earlier in the year.

Compared with a year earlier, prices and sales rose in September in all six Southland counties tracked by CoreLogic: Los Angeles, Ventura, Orange, San Bernardino, Riverside and San Diego.

In Los Angeles, the median price climbed 5.4% to $490,000, while in Orange County prices rose 5.3% to $615,000.

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Many housing experts predict that the rate of those increases will slow in the near future, given wages have failed to keep up with rising home values.

Already, the double-digit price gains of the last two years have largely vanished.

The California Assn. of Realtors, for example, predicts that the California median price will rise 3.2% in 2016, compared to 6.5% this year.

Follow me on Twitter: @khouriandrew.

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