After enjoying a bit of summer resurgence, Los Angeles County's housing market in August saw familiar trends: falling sales coupled with declining prices.

County housing sales in August declined 23 percent versus the same period a year ago, while prices fell 30 percent, according to data supplied to the Business Journal by Melville, N.Y.-based HomeData Corp.

It was a slightly accelerated decline in prices from July, when the cost of a home fell 28 percent from the same period a year ago. The county's median home sales price in August, $404,000, was its lowest since April 2004.

The condominium market, which showed signs of revitalization in June and July, appears to have cooled somewhat as buyers who snapped up deals had their appetite satiated. Sales in August increased by less than one-half percent from the same period last year after registering a 6.4 percent increase from July 2007 to July 2008.

The median price of a condo, meanwhile, fell to $380,000 17 percent off from the same period a year ago and 4 percent off from the prior month. In contrast, July condo prices actually climbed 2 percent over June, though they were substantially down from a year ago.

Experts said the overall numbers weren't surprising: While sales activity in June and July increased as buyers and investors swooped in to capitalize on low prices, the action mostly happened at the moderate and low end of the market. That kept median home prices soft.

"In general, you have such a rapid decline in prices and a huge increase in distressed sales, that you had a kind of bulge in buying," said Leslie Appleton Young, chief economist with the California Association of Realtors.

That's also likely what happened in the condo market, said Eric Sussman, a lecturer at the UCLA Anderson School of Management. There were 1,254 condo units sold in June, a 115 percent increase from May. In contrast, there were 1,171 units sold in August.

"It's like price paralysis basically," Sussman said. "People say, 'We'd like to buy a condo, but no we're just going to wait. Prices will fall further.' Then they realize that the bottom dropped as much as it was going to."

Indeed, if anything, the market stagnated a bit during August, with no big jumps in the number of Los Angeles-area ZIP codes with median home prices below the countywide average. In August, 103 ZIP codes had a median price below $400,000. That's up significantly from the same period a year before when there were only 15 such areas, but not a huge leap from last month, when there were 99.


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