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Southern California median home price hits $400,000 to reach 6-year high, sales stay sluggish

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SAN DIEGO — Southern California's median home sale price hit $400,000 in March to set a fresh six-year high as tight supplies limited sales, a research firm said Tuesday.

The median price for new and existing houses and condominiums was $400,000, up 4.4 percent from $383,000 in February and up 15.8 percent from $345,500 in March 2013, DataQuick said. It was the 24th straight annual gain, including the last 20 months in double digits.

The median price was the highest since February 2008, when it was $408,000.

Low inventories kept a lid on sales in the six-county region. There were 17,638 homes sold during March, up 25.7 percent from February to reflect a seasonal increase but down 14.3 percent from the same period a year earlier. It was the slowest March in six years.

An increase in home prices and lending rates over the last year has put new homes out of reach for some would-be buyers, said John Walsh, DataQuick's president. Other potential buyers are reluctant to give up low mortgage rates on homes they currently occupy.

Investor purchases have slowed, further limiting sales, San Diego-based DataQuick said. Absentee buyers — mostly investors and some second-home purchasers — bought 27.4 percent of homes sold in Southern California last month, down from 28.9 percent in February and 31.2 percent in March 2013.

The California Realtors Association said last month that supplies had improved since the end of last year, except for the lowest-priced homes.

There was a five-month supply of unsold single-family homes in the Los Angeles metropolitan area in February, the most recent figures available, up from a 3.8-month supply a year earlier. A normal supply is considered five to seven months.

All six counties surveyed registered double-digit annual price gains in March, except Ventura. San Bernardino, the least expensive county, posted the biggest price increase in percentage terms, up 21.1 percent to $230,000. Riverside, the second least expensive, had the second biggest price jump, up 17.8 percent to $288,500.

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