California home sales sluggish as buyers struggle to find affordable options

California home sales declined in July compared to the same time last year as buyers struggled to find something they could afford in the tight market, a research firm said Thursday.

Statewide 39,608 new and resale houses and condos sold in July — an 8.7 percent drop from July 2013, CoreLogic DataQuick said.

The rate of rising year-over-year prices also is no longer at double-digit rates like last summer.

"The more spectacular annual price gains of a year ago — over 20 percent — seem far back in the rearview mirror now," said Corelogic DataQuick analyst Andrew LePage. "Looking ahead, such double-digit price jumps seem unlikely unless there's a burst of pent-up demand, perhaps triggered by more robust income growth, a loosening of mortgage credit or a significant move in interest rates."

The sharpest drop in sales was in Southern California.

About 20,000 new and resale houses and condos sold last month in the six-county Southern California region, marking a 12.4 percent decline from July 2013.

A total of about 8,474 new and resale houses and condos sold last month In the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area. That's down 9.3 percent from July 2013 when 9,339 homes sold.

The numbers were based on transactions that closed in escrow and were reported by county recorder offices.

Cash deals have also fallen, indicating that fewer investors are snapping up bargains.

The median price for homes statewide in July was $392,000, an 8 percent increase from the same time a year ago, CoreLogic DataQuick said.

In Southern California, the median price for new and resale houses and condos last month was $413,000 — a 7.3 percent jump from the median price of $385,000 in July 2013. In the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area, the median price for a home was $617,000 in July — up 9.8 percent from the same time last year.

The number of homes for sale remained limited. There was a 3.7-month supply of unsold, existing single-family homes in California in June, according to the most recent figures from the California Association of Realtors, up from a 2.9-month supply a year earlier but still well below a normal supply of five to seven months.

The biggest drop in home sales has been in the lower end of the market.

"People are no longer underwater, but now many do not have enough equity to do anything," LePage said.

Homes that sold for less than $500,000 in the San Francisco Bay Area and Southern California in July fell 17 percent compared to the same period in 2013.

Pamela Rocha and her husband, Ezra, both Army veterans, searched for three years in the small Northern California town of Greenview before finding a place they could afford.

"Everyone seems to be stuck in the past in that they want a million dollars for their home and they probably paid that for it but now it is only appraising for $300,000 and they don't want to come down," she said.

There also were few options for would-be buyers.

"It was rough," Rocha, 32, said. "It was like every house was very competitive, and if you didn't show something for it right away, it would go away. But we are first-time homeowners and we didn't want to rush it. We wanted to make sure we could afford it and didn't end up in foreclosure."

In the end, the couple with two children found a three-bedroom, two-bath home for close to $300,000.

They closed on the deal a little over a week ago.