LA JOLLA, Calif. (DQNews) -- Southern California home sales dropped last month from August, as they normally do, and eked out a tiny gain from a year earlier as bargain hunting below $300,000 remained relatively strong.Home prices continued their sideways-to-downward slide, with the region's median sale price falling below the year-ago level for the seventh consecutive month, a real estate information service reported. A total of 18,149 new and resale houses and condos sold in Los Angeles, Riverside, San Diego, Ventura, San Bernardino and Orange counties in September. That was down 7.7 percent from 19,654 in August and up 0.3 percent from 18,091 in September 2010, according to San Diego-based DataQuick. It's normal for home sales to drop between August and September, partly because many home buyers try to close their deals before school starts in late summer. On average, sales have fallen 8.3 percent between August and September since 1988, when DataQuick's statistics began. September sales have varied from a low of 12,455 in 2007 to a high of 37,771 in 2003. Last month's sales were 25.3 percent below the September average of 24,310 transactions since 1988. "Last month's Southland sales weren't great but, like some other economic indicators of late, they came in a bit higher than some might have expected. Holding steady with a year ago isn't so bad when you consider the hits the housing market has taken in recent months, including a big psychological blow from a tanking stock market in early August. Part of what's keeping demand afloat is improved affordability thanks to ultra-low mortgage rates and lower home prices. We'll have to wait and see what impact the lower conforming loan limits, which took effect recently, will have in some of the higher-priced markets," said John Walsh, DataQuick president. The median price paid for all new and resale Southland houses and condos purchased last month was $280,000. That was up 0.4 percent from $279,000 in August but down 5.2 percent from $295,500 in September 2010. The regional median has declined year-over-year for the past seven months. The last time any one of the six Southland counties posted an annual gain in its median sale price was in January, when San Bernardino logged a 1.0 percent year-over-year increase. Last month's median was 13.4 percent higher than the median's low point in the current real estate cycle - $247,000 in April 2009 - but was 44.6 percent lower than the peak $505,000 median in mid 2007. The peak-to-trough drop was due to a decline in home values and a shift in sales toward lower-cost homes, especially inland foreclosures.