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Southland home sales hit a nine-year high; prices up 5.5%

The Southern California housing market is enjoying a summer almost as hot as the weather.

Home sales reached a nine-year high in July, while the median price climbed 5.5% from a year earlier, according a report out Tuesday from CoreLogic.

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The data represent a housing market that's picked up steam from a sluggish 2014, as an improved economy gives more families the confidence to buy a home. June sales also were at a nine-year high.

"Much of today's demand stems from job growth, low mortgage rates and a more confident consumer," CoreLogic analyst Andrew LePage said.

The 16.9% increase in sales from July 2014 comes as investors pull back from the marketplace, leaving more breathing room for families.

In July, absentee buyers, who are mostly investors, bought 21% of all homes sold, the smallest share since June 2010. All-cash transactions, often the sign of an investment deal, also fell to 21.7% of sales, the lowest since November 2008.

Real estate agents say some families have jumped into the market given all the talk about a coming rise in interest rates if the Federal Reserve raises its short-term benchmark rate later this year, as expected.

The robust demand pushed sales up in six Southland counties: Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego and Ventura.

In Los Angeles County, sales jumped 13.5% from a year earlier. The median price, the point where half the homes sold for more and half for less, rose 4.7% to $492,000. In Orange County, sales were up 15.5% and prices increased 5.3% to $615,000.

The six-county region's median price ticked down 0.9% from June to $438,000. But LePage said such a month-to-month dip is not unusual and probably represents a shift in the mix of homes selling.

Most economists predict continued price appreciation ahead, though at a slower pace than in recent years as families struggle to afford the increased cost of housing. The California Assn. of Realtors expects that by the end of December the median price for a California single-family home will have risen 5.3% in 2015.

Twitter: @khouriandrew

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