LOS ANGELES (AP) — Southern California home sales fell in January amid scant inventories and the highest prices in years, a research firm reported Wednesday.

Slightly more than 14,400 new and existing houses and condominiums sold last month, down about 21 percent from December, San Diego-based DataQuick reported Wednesday. It was the lowest January tally in three years.

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At $380,000, the median sales price in the six-county region was down nearly 4 percent from December — a normal seasonal decline — but up about 18 percent from January 2013.

The median sale price has risen on a year-over-year basis for 22 consecutive months.

DataQuick said that usually fewer transactions close during January and February because many buyers drop out of the market during the holidays and midwinter.

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Last month’s sales were about 17 percent below the average number of sales — just under 17,500 — in the month of January since 1988. Sales haven’t been above average for any particular month in more than seven years. January sales have ranged from a low of 9,983 in January 2008 to a high of 26,083 in January 2004.

John Walsh, DataQuick’s president, said despite the growing economy Southern California home sales remain well below average mostly because of low inventory. But limited mortgage availability, rising interest rates and higher home prices are to blame as well, he said.

The firm analyzed home sales in Los Angeles, Riverside, San Diego, Ventura, San Bernardino and Orange counties.

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