Southern California home sales in November fell to the lowest total for that month since 1997, according to a report by real estate research company DataQuick Information Systems.

A total of 20,388 new and resale homes sold in Los Angeles, Riverside, San Diego, Ventura, San Bernardino and Orange counties in November, down 7.8 percent from October and 26.2 percent from November 2005.

Since 1988, average sales in October for the region are 21,200, with a high of 27,637 in November 2005 and a low of 13,537 in 1991.

“Sales levels are still closer to the middle than to the peak or the bottom,” said Marshall Prentice, DataQuick president, in a statement. “While it appears that (prices) peaked last summer, we need to remember that summer buyers generally pay somewhat more for their homes than winter buyers. Additionally, different markets appear to have peaked at different times.”

The median price paid for a Southland home in November was $487,000, up 0.6 percent from October and up 1.7 percent from November 2005. “The year-over-year increase was the lowest since February 1997 when the $160,000 median was up 1.3 percent from $158,000 a year earlier,” according to the DataQuick report. The median peaked at $493,000 in June.

Homes in lower-cost neighborhoods are appreciating by more than 5 percent, while homes in move-up and prestige neighborhoods have flat or slightly declining prices, DataQuick also reported.

Median home prices fell 8.2 percent to $562,000 in Ventura County from November 2005 to November 2006 while dropping 6.9 percent in San Diego County to $482,000, flattening in Orange County at $616,000, and rising 2.6 percent in Los Angeles County to $510,000, rising 5.2 percent in Riverside County to $426,000, and rising 8.6 percent in San Bernardino County to $380,000.

Home sales dropped 35.7 percent in Riverside County, 30.8 percent in Ventura County, 29.3 percent in Orange County, 26.7 percent in San Bernardino County, 24.1 percent in San Diego County and 18.9 percent in Los Angeles County from November 2005 to November 2006.

The typical monthly mortgage payment that Southland buyers committed themselves to paying was $2,265 in November, compared with $2,287 in October and $2,238 in November 2005. Adjusted for inflation, payments are 1.5 percent above typical payments in the spring of 1989, which was the peak of the prior real estate cycle, DataQuick reported, and they are 6.6 percent below the current cycle’s June peak.

“Indicators of market distress are still at a moderate level. Financing with adjustable-rate mortgages is flat. Foreclosure activity is rising but is still below average. Down-payment sizes are stable, as are flipping rates and non-owner-occupied buying activity,” the company also stated.

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