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California home sales rise, driven by lower-priced markets

SAN DIEGO (AP) -- California home sales regained footing in September and prices cooled as buyers sought property in more affordable markets away from the coast, a research firm said Tuesday.

The median price for new and existing single-family homes and condominiums was $406,000, down 0.6 percent from $408,500 in August but up 5.5 percent from $385,000 in September 2014, according to CoreLogic Inc.

It was the 43rd straight month of annual gains but percentage increases have cooled to single digit since June 2014.

There were 40,990 homes sold last month throughout the state, down 0.8 percent from 41,328 sales in August but up 12.7 percent 36,385 sales in September 2014.

“Summer ended on a high note,” said CoreLogic analyst Andrew LePage.

The September rebound allowed California to post its strongest summer since 2006. Sales slowed in August after a robust June and July, which LePage said might have been caused because supplies dried up after the early summer buying spree.

The median price in the San Francisco Bay Area was $650,000 in September, up 1.2 percent from $642,000 in August and up 8.3 percent from $600,000 in September 2014. The nine-county region had 7,816 sales, up 6.9 percent from a year earlier.

Sales fell in some expensive markets, including the city of San Francisco, where the median price hovered near $1.1 million, but jumped in more affordable suburbs. Contra Costa County saw sales grow 18 percent from a year earlier, while Solano County surged more than 30 percent.

Kim Ott, president-elect of the Bay East Association of Realtors, said buyers east of San Francisco include first-time owners seeking to spend less than $600,000 and others who spend more than $1 million for more space than they can get on the San Francisco Peninsula.

The median price in Southern California was $435,000 in September, down 0.7 percent from $438,000 in August but up 6.1 percent from $410,000 in September 2014, according to Irvine-based CoreLogic. There were 21,350 homes sold in the six-county region, up 13.1 percent from a year earlier.

San Bernardino, the most affordable county in Southern California, saw the region's biggest price gain, up 13.7 percent from last year to $268,000.

Esmael Adibi, director of Chapman University's Anderson Center for Economic Research, said the numbers reflect a market driven by job growth, not investors.

“It is healthy to see price appreciation that is single digit,” he said. “It's good for buyers, even for sellers, builders and bankers. When you see prices that are 20 percent up, 20 percent down, those markets are not stable.”

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