- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 17, 2016

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Buyers snapped up more than 27,500 houses and condos in California last month, making it the most active January in three years even as sales remained below the historic average.

Research firm CoreLogic Inc. also reported Wednesday that the median price hit $400,000, the highest for the month since 2007 although lower than the December 2015 median of $412,500.

It’s normal for the median price and sales figures to go down from December. Home closings traditionally drop off in January, as people don’t like to shop or sell over the holidays.

Still, January sales were below the average of 33,114 homes purchased during the month since CoreLogic started tracking sales in 1988. Nearly 40,500 homes closed escrow in December.

The sluggish activity could be due to lack of inventory and moderately tight credit restrictions, CoreLogic research analyst Andrew LePage said.

Prices, however, continued to climb year over year.

The median price for a California home increased more than 8 percent from $369,000 in January 2015. It was the highest for the month since 2007, when the price was $460,000.

About 4,800 homes closed escrow in the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area, up 7 percent from the previous January but down 38 percent from December.

The median price in the region increased 15 percent to $625,500 from last January.

San Francisco County continues to be a hot market. In the San Francisco Bay Area, it posted the greatest increase in median sales price, surging 32 percent to nearly $1.17 million.

Alameda County posted a 21 percent increase in the median price, bumping up to $635,250 from the previous January.

In Southern California, more than 14,600 homes were sold last month. The figure was up about 7 percent from January 2015 but down 31 percent from December.

The median price increased by nearly 7 percent from the previous January, to $432,250.

LePage said Southern California homes in the most affordable price ranges dropped from the previous January, including a 20 percent decrease in sales under $200,000.

“Still, last month’s sales were the highest for a January in three years thanks to relatively strong sales above $500,000,” he said.

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