A total of 19,528 new and resale houses and condos sold in six Southern California counties last month, according to DataQuick.
The numbers were up 20.5 percent from November, but off 12.5 percent from December 2009, making it the second lowest total in a December since 1995.
The November-to-December sales gain is actually normal for the season, though the average since 1988 has been just 12.9 percent.
“Ultra-low mortgage rates, coupled with lower prices, gave the market a boost this fall, helping to explain the above-average gain in closings between November and December,” said John Walsh, DataQuick president, in a release.
“We still see the potential for sales to perk up this spring if rates stay low and brighter economic news lifts consumer confidence. Of course, a loosening of credit terms would help an awful lot, too, especially in move-up markets.”
The median price paid for a SoCal home last month was $290,000, up one percent from $287,000 in November and 0.3 percent from $289,000 a year ago.
The low for the current real estate cycle, which peaked at $505,000 in mid-2007, was $247,000 in April 2009.
Foreclosure resales accounted for 34.3 percent of the resale market last month, down from 35.2 percent in November and 39.6 percent a year earlier.
Adjustable-rate mortgages were used for 6.4 percent of all purchase loans, up from 5.6 percent in November and 4.4 percent a year ago.
Finally, jumbo mortgages accounted for 18.0 percent of last month’s purchases, roughly unchanged from November, but up from 16.7 percent last year.