It's normal for sales to be slow this time of year, meaning January and February are not necessarily predictive of upcoming trends, according to a report by real estate monitoring service DataQuick.
Overall home sales rose slightly in early 2011 compared with the same time last year, with 4,966 sold in the Bay Area, DataQuick said.
Within the Bay Area, Napa County had the highest increase, rising 35.6% from last year. Solano County saw the biggest decrease with a drop of 3% from last year, according to DataQuick.
New-home sales dropped to their lowest in more than 20 years with 253 sales, DataQuick officials said.
"Builders just can't build homes that can compete in price with the bargains out there, especially foreclosure resales," DataQuick president John Walsh said in a statement.
The median price for new and resale houses and condos in the Bay Area dropped to $338,000 in January 2011, compared to $350,000 in January 2010, DataQuick reported.
Sales of higher-cost homes appear to still be suffering from the credit crisis, which made adjustable-rate mortgages and "jumbo" loans more difficult to obtain, the report said.
Jumbo loans, which accounted for nearly 60% of the Bay Area purchase loan market before the credit crunch more than three years ago, accounted for only 27.1% of January's purchasing lending, the report said.
Government-insured Federal Housing Administration loans made up 25% of all home purchase mortgages in January.
Monthly mortgage payments are down from last month and last year, according to DataQuick.
The typical mortgage for January was $1,412, compared to $1,558 in December and $1,525 in January 2010.
Foreclosure activity remains high but is below peak levels reached over the last two years, the report said.