Sonoma County’s housing market remains on track to post its biggest sales numbers in seven years, but the median price here is rising considerably slower than for the entire state.

The county’s median price in September climbed 4 percent from a year earlier to $357,000 according to The Press Democrat’s monthly housing report compiled by Pacific Union International Vice President Rick Laws.

California, meanwhile, posted a jump in the median price last month of 20 percent to $345,000, according to the California Association of Realtors.

One month’s comparison may not tell much, especially since the California median price in September rose to its highest level in more than four years. But the state’s median also has outpaced the county’s since the housing market hit bottom in February 2009.

Over that 44-month period, the county median price has rebounded 17 percent, while the state’s median has increased 41 percent, according to the Realtors association data.

Leslie Appleton-Young, chief economist for the association, said one reason for the difference in price gains may be that California experienced a “much sharper swing” toward sales of higher-priced homes, which typically are sold by owners with equity. In contrast, the number of foreclosure sales by banks has dramatically decreased.

“The equity traditional market really took off in 2012,” Appleton-Young said.

She added that another reason for the difference in price gains may be that parts of the Sonoma County economy “are struggling in terms of job creation.”

“It’s just not a booming labor market,” she said.

County buyers purchased 403 single-family homes last month, an increase of 4 percent from a year earlier but a 23-percent decline from August.

To date this year, the county has recorded the sale of 4,079 homes, up 19 percent from a year earlier. The last time that many homes were sold in the first three quarters was in 2005 during the height of the housing market.

The county’s median price reached a record high of $619,000 in August 2005 before tumbling to $305,000 in February 2009.

Real estate agents and brokers have pointed to this year’s stronger sales as a sign of an improving market. At the same time, they have lamented a lack of homes for sale. September ended with an inventory of just 919 homes, less than a three-month supply at the current pace and half the amount of a year ago.

As a result, buyers often find themselves competing for houses.

“We’re seeing multiple offers in a lot of different price ranges, not just at the bottom,” said Laws.

— Robert Digitale