Despite an average 33.7 percent decline in metropolitan area home sales across California in January, San Francisco Bay Area home sales reached their highest level for that month in 15 years, according to DataQuick Information Systems.

A total of 7,102 new and resale houses and condos were sold in the nine-county Bay Area region last month. That was down 37.3 percent from 11,354 in December and up 2.3 percent from 6,944 for January a year ago, according to DataQuick.

A decrease from December to January is normal for the season. Last month’s sales count was the highest for any January since 7,646 Bay Area homes were sold in 1989.

“The indications are that sales will stay strong at least through spring and on into summer. There are still more people who want to buy than there are homes for sale,” said Marshall Prentice, DataQuick president.

The median price paid for a Bay Area home was $443,000 last month. That was down 3.3 percent from December’s $458,000 and up 9.7 percent from $404,000 for January a year ago. A decline from December to January is common because of a shift in the mix of homes sold. Year-over-year price increases have been around ten percent since October.

Southern California experienced its third-strongest January of the past 15 years last month, DataQuick reported. Prices increased again by more than 20 percent on a year-over-year basis.

A total of 22,652 homes were sold in Los Angeles, Riverside, San Diego, Ventura, San Bernardino and Orange counties in January. That was down 30.1 percent from December’s 32,423 and down 0.5 percent from 22,767 for January last year, according to DataQuick.

A decrease from December to January is normal for the season. Last year’s January was the strongest since 1989 when 23,379 homes were sold.

“We have been expecting interest rates to edge up, but instead they have gone down a bit the past two months. Additionally, demand is still strong, there are still more people who want to buy homes than there are homes for sale,” Prentice said.

The median price paid for a Southern California home was $343,000 in January. That was down 0.9 percent from $346,000 in December, and up 21.2 percent from $283,000 for January 2003. Year-over-year price increases have been around 20 percent since last summer and are expected to ease back to around 15 percent by late spring or summer.

DataQuick, a subsidiary of Vancouver-based MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates, monitors real estate activity nationwide and provides information to consumers, educational institutions, public agencies, lending institutions, title companies and industry analysts.

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