Southern California home prices match 6½-year high

SAN DIEGO (AP) — Southern California home prices climbed to their highest levels in nearly 6½ years in June even as increases cooled and sales remained sluggish, a research firm said Tuesday.

The median price of new and existing houses and condominiums was $415,000, up 1.2 percent from $410,000 in May and up 7.8 percent from $385,000 in June 2013 to match the highest level since January 2008, DataQuick said. It marked the 27th straight month of annual increases but ended a 22-month streak of double-digit annual gains in percentage terms.

Three counties logged single-digit annual price gains: San Diego (8 percent), Los Angeles (5.9 percent) and Ventura (4.4 percent).

Low interest rates, pent-up demand and job growth pushed prices higher but the market has shifted from last year, when prices were growing above a 20 percent annual clip. In June 2013, the median price grew 28.3 percent from a year earlier.

The supply of homes, while still tight, has improved from last year and lack of affordability has kept a lid on prices, said DataQuick analyst Andrew LePage.

"People can't stretch with exotic and risky loans the way they could during the last housing boom," LePage said. "Many of the market indicators we track continue to ease toward normalcy."

There were 20,654 homes sold during the month in the six-county region, up 5.6 percent from May but down 4.4 percent from June 2013. Sales typically increase between May and June.

Investors and cash buyers were a smaller part of the sales mix, DataQuick said.

Absentee buyers, mostly investors and some second-home purchasers, bought 23.6 percent of homes sold last month, down from 29 percent a year earlier to its lowest share since December 2010, when it was 23.4 percent. Absentee buyers accounted for 32.4 percent of sales in January 2013.

Buyers paying all cash accounted for 25.1 percent of June sales, down from 31.2 percent a year earlier and 36.9 percent from February 2013. It was the lowest level in four years.