In a recent LA Times article written by Peter Y. Hong, Southern California home prices continued their decline at the end of 2008, closing the year at 2003 price levels, a real estate research firm reported today. The December median sales price for all Southern California homes fell to $278,000, a 35% drop from the same month a year prior, according to San Diego-based MDA DataQuick.

Recent foreclosure news suggests that short sales and re-defaults from unsuccessful loan modification plans, may be misleading the severity of the foreclosure crisis in Southern California.

Los Angeles County’s median sales price of $320,000 was down 32% from December 2007, while Orange County’s median price fell 30% to $397,000. San Diego’s median price dropped 30% from December 2007, to $300,000. Ventura County’s $338,000 median December sales price was down 36% from the prior year. Reduced sales prices drove the number of Southern California homes sold in December up by 51% over the previous year. “It does look like the spigot is being opened a little bit, at least for low-cost home purchases,” said John Walsh, MDA DataQuick president. The typical monthly mortgage loan payment that California homebuyers committed themselves to paying was $1,239 last month, down from a revised $1,380 for the previous month, and down from a revised $2,060 for December year ago. Read the complete LA Times article.