There was a time when the phrase “back to school” meant after Labor Day.  However, nowadays (with schools anxious to get a head start on their calendar years), it’s come to encompass the last two weeks of August and the first week of September—turning “Back to School” into a season of sorts. You know, it’s that dreaded time of year between summer and fall, when parents must chauffeur the kids around town for school supplies and kids must adjust to the whole going-to-bed-early/homework routine.

For California real estate, too, it’s a season of change. Reports coming out this month have shown real estate “all over the map” as one reporter noted. One of the major factors impacting home sales is affordability. In California, affordability fell from 33%  in the first quarter to 30%  in second quarter, according to the California Association of Realtors Affordability Index.  The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Opportunity Index also found that all five of the nation’s least affordable small housing markets were in California. Perhaps that is at least part of the reason why statewide home sales have softened year-to-year, per C.A.R. While affordability conditions may not improve overnight here—especially for first-time buyers—C.A.R. Vice President and Chief Economist Leslie Appleton-Young remains optimistic that “improving inventory, recent lower interest rates, and a tempering of home prices” will “help spur sales in the coming months.”

So, what will the 2014 “Back to School” season bring? It’s difficult to say, but it is the busiest season for homebuying and selling after spring. That’s because there are some benefits to buying in autumn: year-end tax breaks and pleasant weather conditions for moving. Still, it’s important to have a good handle on what’s happening in the marketplace.  We’ve compiled the latest headlines just for you. Study hour begins…NOW!

Wide Spread Slowdown in Home Price Gains According to the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price IndicesPress Release

Home Prices in 20 U.S. Cities Increased in June at a Slower PaceBloomberg

Slowing Home Sales Show U.S. Market Lacks Momentum: EconomyBloomberg

The Housing Market Is Returning to

The 5 Healthiest Real Estate Markets In The United StatesMotley Fool  (Four of the five are in California) 

Sales Of Previously Owned Homes In U.S. Climb To 10-Month HighBloomberg 

3 Facts Crippling California’s Housing RecoveryHousingWire

California Home Sales And Prices Improve In July; CAR

In Some Housing Markets, All-Cash Deals Still RuleCNN Money

4 Factors Weighing On HousingMarketWatch

Number of the Week: Housing Affordability Hits Six-Year LowWSJ Real Time Economics blog

Housing Affordability All Over the Map and Falling For EverybodyLos Angeles Daily News

What’s Going On in the Housing Market?Fox Business News

Bay Area Home Prices Plateau on Slowing SalesSan Jose Mercury News