A September slowdown in Bay Area home sales and prices is helping buyers begin to turn the tables on sellers.

Sales were down from August and the median price for all types of homes across the nine-county Bay Area slid for the second month in a row, the real estate information company DataQuick reported.

"The pendulum has swung toward the buyer since the summer," said DataQuick's Andrew LePage. It hasn't swung far enough to call it a buyers' market yet, he cautioned, but "the home shopping experience is more pleasant than it was in the spring and early summer."

Real estate agents report price reductions for higher-priced homes in some parts of the Bay Area, and buyers were encountering less competition from investors.

"September was slow for everybody," said Joe Cutrufelli of Alain Pinel Realtors in Walnut Creek. He said he was glad to see "the craziness" end. "Frankly, we needed it to happen. Where there were 30 to 40 offers, now it's down to two or three."

John V. Pinto of Realty World in San Jose said he has a San Jose fixer-upper with a price tag of just under $600,000 that has fetched only three offers -- one from a long-term investor, one from a flipper and one from a potential owner-occupant. That's far fewer than it would have received a couple of months ago, he said.

"I welcome this kind of a market," Pinto said. "It's got a little bit more balance, kind of a middle ground market."


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The median price paid for all types of homes in the Bay Area was $530,000 in September, a drop of just under 2 percent from $540,000 the month before. And while prices last month increased 24 percent from September 2012, they increased 31.7 percent from August 2012 to August this year. Sales dropped 17 percent from August, but were still up 3.6 percent for the year.

"There was a time when anybody could put anything on the market and people would line up to buy it. That's not happening now," said Doreen Roberts, a Fremont broker.

Sales of single-family homes were down from August by double digits in the East Bay, Peninsula and South Bay, while median sale prices were either flat or below their August levels. The prices were above September 2012 levels, but yearly gains have slowed since July.

The median price for a single-family home in Contra Costa County was $410,000 -- down 5.7 percent from August but up 26.2 percent for the year. Santa Clara County's median of $722,000 was down 3 percent for the month but up 18.3 percent for the year. San Mateo County's single-family median sale price of $749,000 was down 13.7 percent from August, and up 8.9 percent for the year.

Alameda County eked out a tiny monthly gain. Its median price was $572,500 -- up less than 1 percent from August and 35.6 percent above September 2012.

Inventory around the bay was at its highest level for the year in mid-September, according to ZipRealty. Sales of lower-priced homes still are brisk in Contra Costa County, but at prices above $800,000 sales have slowed, said Don Cruz Datanagan, head of ZipRealty's East Bay office in Walnut Creek. "We have properties in Danville in great neighborhoods that haven't moved," he said. "We're seeing a shift toward a buyers' market, but just in certain price ranges."

Sherie Corsello of Redfin said she's seeing a slowdown in the areas she covers -- Walnut Creek, Lafayette, Concord, Martinez and east to Brentwood.

The timing couldn't have been better for her clients Mike and Jenn Benincasa, who sold their Concord home for a handsome profit this summer at the peak of the market and bought another in Walnut Creek at list price a few weeks ago, when the market had slowed.

"We got in and out at the right time," said Mike Benincasa. The couple had just finished remodeling their Concord home when they got some timely advice. "Some friends of ours who recently purchased a home told us the market's really changing and advised us to sell and get something else," he said.

The Benincasas listed their Concord home with Redfin for $499,000 and after sifting through multiple offers, accepted one for $530,000. "We ended up walking away with a sizable profit" on a home that was underwater a year earlier, Benincasa said. They paid the asking price of $725,000 for their new home.

Absentee buyers -- typically investors -- peaked in February when they made up nearly 29 percent of the market, DataQuick reported. In September, that had dropped to just over 20 percent. That was good news for regular "move-in" buyers who have been beaten out by investors for homes all year long.

Contact Pete Carey at 408-920-5419. Follow him on Twitter.com/petecarey.