Home sales in Southern California dropped for the 10th consecutive month in September, while home-price appreciation slowed to a snail’s pace, a real estate information service reported Thursday.

A total of 22,654 new and resale homes sold in Los Angeles, Riverside, San Diego, Ventura, San Bernardino and Orange counties last month, down 11.6 percent from 25,628 in August, and down 28.6 percent from 31,740 for September a year ago, according to DataQuick Information Systems.

A decline from August to September is normal for the season, DataQuick reported, and last month’s sales count was the lowest for any September since 1997 when 21,320 homes were sold. Since 1988, September sales have ranged from 12,838 in 1992 to 34,653 in 1988. The September average is 23,341, slightly above last month’s sales.

“Now is when things get interesting. The vast majority of home buyers have done very well for themselves the past few years. As things level off, though, we should be able to quantify how many buyers overpaid during the frenzy, and by how much,” said Marshall Prentice, DataQuick president. “And more importantly, how they manage any financial challenges they encounter. Historically most homeowners in that situation tough it out and wait for the market to go up again.”

The median price paid for a Southland home was $484,000 last month, down 1 percent from $489,000 in August, but up 1.9 percent from $475,000 in September last year. Last month’s increase was the smallest since February 1997, when the $160,000 median rose 1.3 percent from $158,000 a year earlier.

DataQuick said that a slight decline in median price from August to September is normal for the season as purchase patterns shift. The median price per square foot for resale houses, which analysts often use to adjust for seasonal shifts in market mix, actually increased slightly from August to September, from $343.53 to $343.95. That number peaked in June at $345.72.

The typical monthly mortgage payment that Southland buyers committed themselves to paying was $2,309 last month, down from $2,339 the previous month, but up from $2,092 a year ago. Adjusted for inflation, current payments are about 2.3 percent above typical payments in the spring of 1989, the peak of the prior real estate cycle.

Indicators of market distress are still at a moderate level, according to DataQuick, as 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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