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Portland area January home sales fell to the lowest level for any month in at least 15 years. One of the nation's sturdier housing markets, the five-county region also posted this cycle's first double-digit, year-over-year decline in its median sale price, a real estate information service reported.

A total of 1,386 new and resale houses and condos closed escrow during January in the Portland-Vancouver-Beaverton metro area (see included MSA counties below). That sales total fell 25.8% from 1,868 in December and dropped 41.1% below the 2,354 sales a year earlier, according to MDA DataQuick. The San Diego firm tracks real estate trends nationally via public property records.

The number of homes sold in January was the lowest for any month since at least January 1994, when DataQuick's complete (all home types) Portland region sales statistics begin. January 2009 marked the 35th consecutive month in which total sales have fallen on a year-over-year basis. January sales of newly built homes (houses and condos combined) as well as sales of existing single-family detached houses were at record lows for any month in DataQuick's statistics. Sales of existing condos remained well above record-low territory.

The regional median price paid for all new and resale houses and condos combined in January was $245,000, down 1.0% from $247,500 in December and down 12.5% from $280,000 a year earlier. The January median stood 15.2% below its $288,858 peak in August 2007 and was the lowest for any month since January 2006, when it was also $245,000.

Another price gauge, the median price paid per square foot for resale detached houses, suggests a harder fall from the peak: The measure fell to $145 paid per square foot in January, down 13.2% from a year ago and down 22.4% from the peak $187 paid per square foot in June 2007.

Across the West, the median sale price - the point where half of the homes sold for more and half for less - has declined for reasons that go beyond the drop in home values. For example, more of today's sales involve foreclosures, which tend to be concentrated in more affordable neighborhoods and sell at a discount. 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.)

Foreclosure resales - homes resold that had been foreclosed on in the prior 12 months - accounted for about 14.3% of all Portland area resales in January. That's well below levels seen in other major Western markets, where foreclosure resales now account for half or more of all resale activity.

DataQuick's Portland area statistics reflect sales in Clackamas, Multnomah, Washington and Yamhill counties in Oregon and Clark County in Washington.