California home sales slumped for a third straight month and prices rose slightly, according to data released Thursday.
A total of 33,176 newly built and previously owned houses and condominiums sold statewide in September, a 3.1% decline from the previous month and down 17.5% from September 2009, according to real estate research firm MDA DataQuick of San Diego.
Real estate professionals and economists expect the sales pace to remain sluggish for the rest of the year as buyers take longer to commit to purchases and sellers wait out the slow period.
"The sidelines are getting awfully crowded in this housing game," DataQuick President John Walsh said. "They're lined with people who have the ability to buy now but are waiting for the right moment, and with people who have the means but lack job confidence."
The statewide median home price was $265,000, up 1.9% from $260,000 in August, and up 5.6% from September 2009. It was the 11th consecutive month with a year-over-year increase in the median price — the point where half the homes sold for more and half for less — although on a month-over-month basis, the median has faltered some this year. The most recent peak was $278,000 this summer.
Sales began falling in July, when the market's boost from federal and state tax credits evaporated, DataQuick reported.
Economists believe those tax incentives pulled sales that would have occurred in the latter part of this year into the first half, and now the housing market is feeling the fallout. Nevertheless, sales in September usually are lower than those in August.
On Tuesday, DataQuick reported that Southern California sales fell 2.4% from August and were down 16% from September 2009. The Southland's median home price was $295,500, up 2.6% from the previous month and up 7.5% from September 2009. In the Bay Area, DataQuick said Thursday, home sales dropped 5.4% from August and 19.6% from September 2009. The median home price for the region was $395,000, up 2.6% from August and 8.2% from September 2009.