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California home prices cool in November as lack of affordability, low inventory hamper sales

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IRVINE, California — California home prices cooled in November as lack of affordability and low inventories kept potential buyers on the sidelines, a research firm said Tuesday.

The median sales price for new and existing houses and condominiums was $381,000, barely changed from $382,000 in October and up 5.8 percent from $360,000 a year earlier, CoreLogic DataQuick said. It was the lowest annual percentage increase since March 2012.

Sales tumbled to an estimated 29,459 homes, down 20 percent from 36,830 sales in October and down 11.9 percent from 33,429 a year earlier. It was the smallest November sales tally in seven years.

The San Francisco Bay Area's median sales price was $601,000, unchanged from October but up 9.3 percent from $550,000 in November 2013. It was the nine-county region's smallest annual percentage increase since May 2012.

Bay Area sales totaled 6,003 homes, down 22 percent from 7,693 in October and down 9.9 percent from 6,659 a year earlier.

CoreLogic DataQuick said Monday that Southern California's median price was $412,000 in November, barely changed from $410,000 in October and up 7 percent from $385,000 a year earlier. Sales in the six-county region totaled 15,643 homes, down 18.8 percent from 19,271 in October and down 9.5 percent from 17,283 in November 2013.

The steep decline in sales from October is partly because government offices were open fewer days in November to record sales, but it also reflected affordability constraints, financing difficulties and slim offerings, said CoreLogic DataQuick analyst Andrew LePage.

"You've still got a lot of families post-recession that are repairing their tattered finances," LePage said. "You either can't afford it or you can't get the mortgage."

The state had a 3.8-month supply of unsold homes in October, up from 3.3 months a year earlier, according to the most recent figures from the California Association of Realtors. A normal supply is considered five to seven months.

Prices have been cooling for months after a torrid rally in 2013. California's median sales price has increased from a year earlier for 33 straight months, but annual percentage gains fell to a single digit in July after 24 months of double-digit increases. The median price has edged down from the previous month since September.

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