The Southern California real estate market took a breather in September, with sales dipping slightly as the market entered a typically slower season amid price gains that have made homes less affordable. Real estate firm CoreLogic said this week that sales in the six-county region fell nearly 1% last month compared with a year earlier. The region’s median price also fell 1% to $460,000 from August but is still up 5.7% from a year earlier — and close to the nine-year high of $465,000 recorded in June.

The sales and price slips could signal a flattening market after years of strong price appreciation, or it could be typical fluctuations in the data. It is not unusual for the median sale price — the point at which half the homes sold for more and half for less — to move up and down slightly from month to month. CoreLogic’s analysts said that in particular the median often dips from August to September as the market enters the slower fall season. Demand begins to soften heading into the fall since many buyers with families buy before school starts.

Still, many economists predict price increases to be smaller in the future as affordability worsens. Though the median price is $5,000 off from the June peak, it has still risen on a year-over-year basis for 4½ years. Historically low interest rates have kept mortgages more affordable than during the bubble last decade, but wage growth has lagged behind housing price gains driven by a lack of supply.

In other housing news this week, the U.S. Commerce Department reported that national home sales rose 3.1% in September from a month earlier. It will be interesting to see where November’s numbers settle. 2012’s election of an incumbent had virtually no effect on the housing market, and Obama’s 2008 election came in the midst of the worst housing crisis in America in decades—if not ever. “There’s no roadmap for this year’s election and its correlation to the housing market,” says CoreLogic. “We’ll see.”  It will be interesting to see where October and November’s numbers settle.

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