Sales of existing single-family detached homes in California rose 5.1% sequentially to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 546,420 in January, according to the California Association of Realtors. Prices, however, fell.

The pace was 2.5% ahead of the 532,870 estimate of January, 2010, the first year-over-year monthly increase in the estimate since May of last year.

The statewide median price of an existing, single-family detached home sold in California was $278,900, down 8.6% from a revised $305,020 in December and down 2.0% from the $284,600 median price recorded for January 2010. The January 2011 median price was the lowest since June 2009, when it was $274,640.

Condo and townhome sales were down 22.6% from December and down 5.2% from January, 2010.

Part of the price story was evident in the non-seasonally adjusted data CAR included in its release, which showed big gains over December in King, Amador and Lake counties, not big markets, where the median price ranges from $160,000 in Amador to $107,000 in Lake. The rest of the state was down.

Foreclosures and short sales were factors as well.

"Although prices typically fall seasonally in January and February of each year, the decline in the median price can primarily be attributed to the aftereffects of last fall's foreclosure moratoria,² said Leslie Appleton-Young, CAR vp and chief economist . "More distressed properties are coming on to the market, which led to an uptick in sales of distressed properties during January. We expect this trend to continue as lenders expedite the disposition of these properties."

However, on a year-over-year basis, not seasonally adjusted, San Francisco showed a 21.5% jump in sales from January a year prior, Los Angeles was up 1.8%, San Diego was down 1.2% and Orange County was essentially flat.

Still, CAR's unsold inventory index for existing single-family detached homes took a leg up to 6.7 months in January from 5.0 months in December 2010 and 5.7 months in January 2010. Also, the median number of days on the market for these homes was 61.8 days, nearly twice the 32.9 days for the same period a year ago.

The median price and sales data for detached homes is generated from a survey of more than 90 associations of Realtors and multiple listing services throughout the state, representing 90% of the market.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Los Angeles, CA.