The once-sizzling Los Angeles County housing market continued cooling down in August, posting significant declines in the number of house and condo sales.


In all, 8,246 existing homes changed hands in the county in August, which was a steep 32 percent drop from the same month last year.


However, the median price continued climbing. The $550,000 median price of existing homes that sold in August was up 5.8 percent from one year earlier. It was the same price as the previous month of July.


That pattern has held consistent for much of this year: Unit sales have been sliding but median prices climbing.


August is the first month the Business Journal has listed condo sales in the county.


The number of condo sales fell 30 percent to 1,933 the lowest number for August in at least three years. At the same time, the median condo price rose almost 4 percent to $415,000 the highest median price for August in at least three years, according to data provided to the Business Journal by HomeData Corp., a Melville, N.Y., company that tracks housing prices nationwide.


However, the median condo price has fallen the last two months after peaking in June at $422,000.


Several real estate professionals said that this data, coupled with the similar drop in volume but increase in median price for homes, indicates that the county's real estate market continues to soften.


"We are coming through a cycle that was extremely hot and everything was going up at incredibly high paces so it would seem natural that it would slow down at some point and adjust," said Ron Harris, vice president of investments at Marcus & Millichap Real Estate Investment Brokerage Co.


"These numbers indicate a flattening or softening of the market you are seeing corrections in the market but it hasn't affected value in the same way."


Some real estate economists said that house and condo prices could slip, citing the psychology of buyers in a cooling market as a key factor.


"I wouldn't be surprised to see several months of price declines," said Lawrence Yun, senior economist with the National Association of Realtors. "People understand the market is cooling, and some potential buyers may be holding back to see how far declines go. I don't see prices declining in the long term."


Yun said that the county's strong job market over 70,000 jobs were created in the last year is one factor that will support the real estate market and help to stave off long-term price declines.

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