Southern California home sales increased slightly for the third straight month in October, led by strong sales in the Inland Empire and increased regional inventory levels, according to DataQuick Information Systems, a real estate information company. Price appreciation rates remained in the mid-teens.

A total of 28,489 new and resale homes were sold in Los Angeles, Riverside, San Diego, Ventura, San Bernardino and Orange counties last month. That was down 10.2 percent from 31,470 in September, but up 1.1 percent from 28,189 for October last year, DataQuick reported.

While sales declined on a year-over-year basis during the first half of this year, they have increased since August. So far this year 299,109 homes have been sold, down 0.1 percent from 299,421 for the same 10 months last year.

Home sales slumped 12.7 percent in San Diego County and 2.8 percent in Ventura County from October 2004 to October 2005, but increased in the five other Southern California counties tracked by DataQuick.

“The big question is still whether or not the real estate market will end this cycle with a crash, or with a soft landing. Right now the latter scenario is still the most likely. Home values have doubled in the past four years and almost all, if not all, of those gains are here to stay,” said Marshall Prentice, DataQuick president.

The median price paid for a Southern California home was $473,000 last month. That was down 0.4 percent from $475,000 in September, but up 15.1 percent from $410,000 for October 2004. The peak was in August at $476,000.

Year-over-year changes in the median have been in the mid-teens since April, DataQuick reported. The year-over-year change in the median price ranged last month from 4.9 percent in San Diego County to 33.1 percent in San Bernardino County. The median in both counties hit a new peak.

The typical monthly mortgage payment that Southern California home buyers committed themselves to paying was $2,169 last month, up from $2,092 for the previous month, and up from $1,811 for October a year ago. Adjusted for inflation, current payments are about 5 percent below their peak in the spring of 1989.

“Indicators of market distress are still largely absent,” DataQuick announced. “Foreclosure activity is edging up from its bottom, but is still low. Down payment sizes are stable, as are flipping rates and non-owner occupied buying activity.”

DataQuick monitors national real estate activity and provides information to consumers, educational institutions, public agencies, lending institutions, title companies and industry analysts.

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Send tips or a Letter to the Editor to glenn@inman.com or call (510) 658-9252, ext. 137.

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