For the seventh straight month, home sales in January inched higher, climbing 3.4% above levels seen a year earlier.

On a monthly basis, home sales declined 19.3% from December, returning to seasonal norms after an unexpected jump in sales, according to the RE/MAX national housing report.

The data is based on a survey of 53 metropolitan areas.

In January, the median price of homes sold in the 53 metros was $129,306, only 0.8% lower than a year earlier and a 3.4% drop from December.

Perhaps due to falling foreclosure numbers, for the 19th consecutive month, inventory levels dropped in January. The average inventory of homes for sale dropped 24.1% from a year earlier and 4.2% from December.

“If sales continue ahead of last year’s pace and inventory does not increase significantly, we could start to see increasing home prices this year,” RE/MAX CEO Margaret Kelly said.

Of the metro areas included in the January survey, 20 saw double-digit jumps from a year earlier, and 36 experienced higher sales, including Albuquerque, N.M. (33.9%), Wilmington-Dover, Del. (33.2%), Atlanta (26.3%), Indianapolis (19.6%), Providence, R.I. (19.6%), Nashville, Tenn. (19.5%), Cleveland (18.9%) and Chicago (15.3%).

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