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Southern California Home Sales Drop 16 Percent

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(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Home sales in Southern California last month fell 16 percent from a year earlier to reach their lowest September level in three years, a tracking firm said Tuesday.

San Diego-based MDA DataQuick said the six-county region saw 18,091 sales last month, compared with 21,539 in September 2009, illustrating renewed concerns over the pace of the housing market’s recovery. September’s sales were down 2.4 percent from 18,541 in August, their third month-to-month decline in a row.

“Today’s market can be characterized as much by activity that’s not happening as by the activity that is happening,” DataQuick President John Walsh said. “We’re seeing distress-selling, bargain-hunting and entry-level buying, while the rest of the market is still largely on hold.”

The median home price in Southern California rose 7.5 percent last month to $295,500, from $275,000 in September 2009, DataQuick said. Last month’s median was also up 2.6 percent from $288,000 in August.

Foreclosures accounted for 33.4 percent of last month’s sales, down from 34.5 percent in August and 40.4 percent a year ago.

September’s sales dipped to a level not seen since 2007, when there were 12,455 transactions that month. Walsh predicted that buyers would return to the market when banks become more willing to lend.

Although mortgage rates have fallen to their lowest level in decades, it has become harder to qualify for a loan.

“As many wait for this market uncertainty and turbulence to pass, demand is being generated and is accumulating,” he said. “At some point, the mortgage spigot will be reopened and there will be a surge of buying activity.”

(© Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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