Home sales in Southern California fell for the ninth straight month in August, as price levels appeared to be nearing a plateau, a real estate information service reported today.

A total of 25,628 new and resale homes sold in Los Angeles, Riverside, San Diego, Ventura, San Bernardino and Orange counties last month, down 25.3 percent from 34,292 sales in August 2005, but up 12.8 percent from 22,712 sales in July, according to DataQuick Information Systems.

Last month’s sales count was the lowest for any August since 22,308 homes were sold in August 1997, DataQuick reported.

“There’s an awful lot of moaning going on right now. Potential buyers and sellers need to be careful what they believe and exercise common sense in their decision making,” said Marshall Prentice, DataQuick president. “The market is certainly off from its frenzy, but we have to remember that it takes much more downward pressure to push prices down than upward pressure to push them up. Prices have doubled the last four-and-a-half years. So does the market keep all of that gain, or only 90 percent?”

The median price paid for a Southland home was $489,000 last month, up 2.7 percent from $476,000 in August 2005, but down 0.6 percent from July’s $492,000. Last month’s increase was the smallest since July 1999, when the $193,000 median also rose 2.7 percent from $188,000 a year earlier.

The typical monthly mortgage payment that Southland buyers committed themselves to paying was $2,339 last month, up from $2,123 a year ago but down from $2,437 in July. Adjusted for inflation, current payments are about 8.7 percent above typical payments in the spring of 1989, the peak of the prior real estate cycle.

DataQuick said indicators of market distress are still largely absent, and financing with adjustable-rate mortgages has trended lower over the past year. Foreclosure activity is rising but is still low in a historical context. Down-payment sizes are stable, as are flipping rates and non-owner-occupied buying activity, DataQuick reported.

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