A 'price reduced' sign is posted outside this house for sale… (Michael Nelson, EPA )
It's getting pricier to buy a home in California, with fewer properties on the market and a hike in demand this year.
Sales of homes in California fell last month, even as prices continued to rise, according to real estate firm DataQuick.
A big driver of the increase in the median — the point at which half the homes sold for more and half for less — is a change in the types of homes selling. The state's inventory of cheaper homes has dropped dramatically this year as investors are competing with first-time home buyers and move-up buyers are buying more expensive homes.
"It's obvious that a lot of fence-sitters are getting active," DataQuick President John Walsh said. "Potential buyers are also encountering fewer homes for sale."
Home sales fell 16.5% from August, a typical seasonal decline, and 2.7% from September 2011. September was the first month that sales declined year over year after 14 consecutive months of increases.
The state's median home price was $287,000, a 2.1% increase from August and a 15.3% jump from September 2011. The median home price in the state hit a bottom in April 2009, when it was $221,000. It peaked at $484,000 in 2007.
Foreclosures as a share of the resale market continued to fall. Of the previously owned homes sold last month, 17.7% were foreclosures, down from a revised 20% in August and 33.8% in September 2011.
Short sales, a common foreclosure alternative in which a bank allows a homeowner to sell the property for less than the outstanding debt, made up an estimated 27% of homes sold last month, up from 25.9% in August and 23.8% from a year earlier.
In Southern California, sales were down 20.4% from August and 1.6% from September 2011. The median price was $315,000, up 1.9% from August and 12.5% from September 2011.
In the Bay Area, home sales were down 20.2% from August and up 1.5% from September 2011. The median price was $429,000, up 4.6% from August and 17.5% from September 2011.