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Was that as chilly as it gets? Once-hot California real estate brokers ask the question with chattering teeth. October was the slowest month for homebuilding in the Golden State in 15 years, according to Security Pacific National Bank. Meanwhile, the price of the average California home dropped 5.5 percent during the same month - to $121,000 - while the national average rose slightly. (A rough justice there, as the national average was a mere $77,900.)

Brokers in Orange County - where real estate has made many millionaires in the past five years - talk of sitting in their offices for hours without a client's call.

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On the sunny side, this could mean a flood of customers in the spring, when some experts see interest rates as low as 14 percent. The state still has a serious housing shortage; demand is bottled up only by the high cost of money.

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