SAN DIEGO (AP) - California housing prices cooled in September as inventories grew and investor interest waned, a research firm reported Thursday, offering fresh evidence that the market is taking a breather after a torrid spring and summer.
The median sales price for new and existing houses and condominiums was $355,000 last month, up 23.7 percent from $287,000 during the same period last year, research firm DataQuick said.
It was the 10th straight month of annual gains above 20 percent, but the median fell by $6,000 from August.
The 36,027 homes sold in the state - up 5.9 percent from a year earlier - was the highest September sales tally since 2009.
Fewer homeowners find themselves owing more than their properties are worth as prices have soared, prompting many to put their homes up for sale.
The California Association of Realtors said there was a 3.6-month supply of unsold single-family homes in the state last month, up from 3.1 months in August. A normal supply is considered to be five to seven months.
Housing inventories have grown steadily since May, though supplies remain tight for lower-priced homes, said Don Faught, president of the brokers association.
The median sales price in the San Francisco Bay Area was $530,000 in September, up 23.5 percent from $429,000 the same period last year, DataQuick said.
It was the 11th straight month of annual gains above 20 percent but the second consecutive decline from the previous month. Prices peaked at $562,000 in July. The September figure was also the smallest annual percentage gain since March.
The median sales price in Southern California was $382,000, up 21.3 percent from $315,000 the same period last year, DataQuick reported Wednesday. It was the 14th straight month of double-digit annual increases but the median fell from the previous month for the first time since February, dropping by $3,000 from fresh five-year highs set in June, July and August.
Some of the price increase reflects a shift in sales to more expensive homes.
In the San Francisco Bay Area, there were 7,141 homes sold in September, up 3.6 percent from a year earlier. Sales for less than $500,000 plummeted 19.5 percent, while sales above the half-million dollar mark surged 30.9 percent.
In Southern California, there were 19,112 homes sold, a 7 percent increase from last year. Sales of at least $500,000 soared 42.1 percent.
Absentee buyers, mostly investors, purchased 20.7 percent of San Francisco Bay Area homes last month, down from 23.9 percent a year earlier and a peak of 28.7 percent in February. Absentee buyers accounted for 26.3 percent of Southern California sales, down from 27.7 percent a year earlier and a peak of 32.4 percent in January.