California homes sales dropped sharply in January due to a seasonal slump and a lack of affordable homes on the market, a research firm reported Thursday.
There were 25,832 homes sold last month -- 26.1 percent fewer than in December and 10.5 percent fewer than January of last year, San Diego-based DataQuick reported.
It was the slowest January for sales since 2008.
The December-to-January slump was normal, DataQuick analyst Andrew LePage said, but the year-over-year dip was due primarily to a lack of low- and middle-priced homes.
"There's demand, especially in the lower end," LePage said. "There's just not inventory."
"You still have some people who are underwater, owing more than their homes are worth" and they can't afford to sell, while some would-be sellers are simply waiting for higher prices, LePage said.
At the same time, the number of foreclosed homes hitting the market has dropped, he said.
According to the latest figures available from the California Association of Realtors, the state had a three-month supply of single-family homes in December. That's up from a 2.6-month supply a year earlier but well below normal. A normal supply is considered five to seven months.
Tighter credit and rising prices also are crimping sales.
The median home price of $353,000 in January dropped 3.3 percent from December but was up 21.7 percent from January 2013, DataQuick reported.
In fact, the price of a home in any given month compared with the same month a year earlier has been jumping for nearly two years. January was the 14th month in which the year-over-year increase topped 20 percent.
Sales of higher-priced homes remained healthy and were up from a year ago, LePage said.
The situation was similar throughout the state.
In the San Francisco Bay Area, 4,696 homes were sold in January, down 14.6 percent from a year earlier.
The median sales price in the nine-county region was $525,000, down 4.3 percent from $548,500 in December but up 26.5 percent from $415,000 in January 2013. It was the 22nd straight month of annual price increases.
DataQuick reported Wednesday that Southern California home sales fell to the lowest January tally in three years, down 9.9 percent from a year earlier to 14,471 homes. The median sales price in the six-county region was $380,000, down 3.8 percent from $395,000 in December but up 18.4 percent from $321,000 in January 2013.