Los Angeles Times - - BUSINESS - By An­drew Khouri an­drew.khouri Twit­ter: @khourian­drew

South­ern Cal­i­for­nia home prices rose slightly in May, while sales jumped dur­ing the busy spring buy­ing sea­son.

The me­dian sale price for the six-county South­land was $426,000, up 2.2% from a year ear­lier, CoreLogic said Wed­nes­day. It was the small­est gain in three years, ac­cord­ing to the firm.

That small in­crease rep­re­sents a mar­ket in which buy­ers have dif­fi­culty bid­ding up homes to ev­er­higher prices, CoreLogic an­a­lyst An­drew LePage said.

“It’s af­ford­abil­ity and credit re­straints,” LePage said. “Credit is still mod­er­ately con­strained, and a lot of peo­ple have tem­po­rar­ily been priced out.... Prices came a long way in a rel­a­tively short pe­riod of time.”

The na­ture of the me­dian price — the point at which half the homes sold for more and half for less — also played a role in the 2.2% in­crease. A greater share of homes sold in more af­ford­able ar­eas last month than a year ear­lier, LePage said.

But sales are im­prov­ing af­ter a lethar­gic 2014. Buy­ers scooped up 21,644 new and re­sale houses and con­dos last month, 5% more than a year ear­lier. It was the third straight month that sales in­creased.

Real es­tate agents say they are busy be­cause buy­ers are look­ing to lock in low mort­gage rates be­fore the Fed­eral Re­serve gets around to rais­ing its bench­mark short-term in­ter­est rate this year or in 2016.

An im­proved econ­omy has also pro­vided a jolt by giv­ing peo­ple more con­fi­dence to make a pur­chase, ex­perts say.

Home sales climbed Los An­ge­les, Or­ange, River­side, San Bernardino, Ven­tura and San Diego coun­ties.

In L.A. County, sales rose 1.4% from May 2014, while the me­dian price climbed 5.4% to $485,000. In Or­ange County, sales were up 7.4% and the me­dian price edged up 2.5% to $610,000.

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