Sonoma County home sales slowed in January, but the market did witness a jump in the sale of upper-end properties.

Buyers purchased 272 single-family homes last month, according to The Press Democrat’s monthly housing report compiled by Pacific Union International Vice President Rick Laws. Sales fell 5 percent from a year earlier and amounted to the lowest results in three years.

But the month featured a tale of two markets. January sales below $400,000 declined by 45 percent from a year ago.

In contrast, 57 homes sold for $700,000 or more in January, compared to 21 a year earlier. Of last month’s transactions, 22 homes sold for $1 million or more, compared to 8 in January 2013.

The upper-end sales were a sign that “health and recovery has worked its way up the market,” said Laws.

The county’s median sales price last month was $461,000, a decrease of less than 1 percent from December and a 26 percent increase from a year ago.

Eileen Morelli, the operating principal and broker for the four Keller Williams offices in Sonoma and Napa counties, said the higher-end properties included both city and country properties.

February sales remain slow, she said. But activity should increase as usual this spring because agents have lined up plenty of sellers who are getting ready to put homes on the market.

“They’re doing the last minute fix-ups,” Morelli said.

January ended with less than 600 homes listed for sale, about a two-month’s supply of inventory. That remains considerably lower than the roughly six-month supply that experts say is needed for a balanced market.

Sales of financially distressed properties declined 69 percent from a year earlier. They comprised just 12 percent of all sales last month.

Five years ago, nearly three out of four sales in the county involved distressed properties.

The county’s median price hit a record $619,000 in August 2005, before falling to a low of $305,000 in February 2009.

Activity dropped even more sharply last month in the Bay Area. Sales in the nine-county region fell to a six-year low, according to real estate information service DataQuick.

The Bay Area reported the sale of 4,696 houses and condos last month, a decline of nearly 15 percent from a year ago.

The median price for those homes declined 4 percent from December to $525,000. However, it remained nearly 27 percent higher than a year earlier.

John Walsh, DataQuick president, said in a statement that the mid-winter numbers usually aren’t predictive of activity for the coming year. Instead, he will be looking at spring sales.

“We may find out how much pent-up supply and demand is still on hold from the great recession, and how it will play itself out,” Walsh said.

— Robert Digitale