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California home sales fairly flat in October

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POSTED November 15, 2013 6:51 p.m.

SAN DIEGO (AP) — California home sales and prices were fairly flat in October compared to September, but other figures indicate a market that is slowly regaining its health after a yearslong slump, a research firm reported Wednesday.

An estimated 36,468 houses and condominiums were sold last month, up just 1.2 percent from September and down 7.1 percent from October of 2012, DataQuick said.

The monthly sales were 15.4 percent below the October average dating back to 1988, when San Diego-based DataQuick began keeping statistics.

The median sales price for a home — meaning half sold for more and half for less — was $357,000 — about a half-percent increase over September. The price was still more than 25 percent higher than in October of last year and marked the 11th straight month that such year-over-year gains have topped 20 percent.

The market, which peaked and then collapsed five years ago, appeared to be edging back to normalcy.

“Indicators of market distress continue to decline,” DataQuick said in a statement. “Foreclosure activity remains well below year-ago and peak levels reached in the last five years. Financing with multiple mortgages is low, while down payment sizes are stable.”

There were sharp sales price differences between the two main population areas of California. The median price in the five-county Southern California region was $383,750 while it was $539,750 in the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area. However, the sprawling southern area had more than 20,000 homes sales compared to around 7,600 for the Bay Area.

In both regions, mid- and higher-priced homes pulled in more sales than lower-priced ones.

In the Bay Area, the market was “slowly re-establishing equilibrium,” DataQuick President John Walsh said.

Skittish buyers and lenders could be acting as a drag on the market, he said in a statement.

“Comfort levels do rise with more stability and predictability - factors that could contribute to increased activity well into next year and beyond,” Walsh said.

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