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The median price paid for Las Vegas region homes fell to $159,000 in January - the lowest since spring 2002 - as foreclosures' share of the resale market hit 73%. Lower prices triggered enough home sales to surpass the year-ago transaction level for the fifth consecutive month, a real estate information service reported.

A total of 3,127 new and resale houses and condos closed escrow in the Las Vegas-Paradise metro area (Clark County) in January, down 21.8% from December but up 24.8% from January 2008, according to MDA DataQuick. The San Diego-based firm tracks real estate trends nationally via public property records.

January marked the 10th consecutive month in which sales of existing single-family detached houses rose on a year-over-year basis, while resale condos have seen an annual sales gain for seven straight months. Total home sales, which have suffered from the decline in new-home construction, climbed above the year-ago mark for the fifth consecutive month but were the lowest for a January since 2000.

The 249 new homes sold - detached houses and condos combined - marked a record low for any month in DataQuick's complete Las Vegas statistics, which go back to 1994.

The median price paid for all homes sold in the Las Vegas metro area fell to $159,000 in January, down 9.1% from $175,000 in December and down 37.6% from $254,990 in January 2008. The January 2009 median's 37.6% year-over-year decline is a record for any month in DataQuick's Las Vegas statistics.

The overall median sale price has fallen on a year-over-year basis for 21 consecutive months and stands 49.0% below the region's peak $312,000 median in November 2006. Last month's median was the lowest since it was $158,100 in May 2002.

Another gauge analysts monitor indicates greater price erosion since the peak: The median paid per square foot for resale detached houses fell to $90 in January, down 33.8% from a year ago and down 52.7% from the $190 peak reached in June 2006.

Across the West, the median sale price - the point where half of the homes sold for more and half for less - has fallen for reasons beyond the drop in home values. For example, more of today's sales involve foreclosures, which tend to sell at a discount and be concentrated in more affordable communities. Also, the August 2007 credit crunch made larger "jumbo" mortgages more expensive and harder to obtain, which has led to slower sales in higher-priced neighborhoods. (A dropoff in high-end sales can tug down the median.)

About 73.2% of the Las Vegas-area houses and condos that resold in January had been foreclosed on at some point in the prior 12 months, MDA DataQuick reported.