Home pricing patterns in January were mixed in the San Gabriel and Whittier areas as home buyers and Realtors faced the end of federal buying incentives and continued uncertainty about homes on the verge of foreclosure, according to a report released Tuesday.

In the below-$500,000 market, Azusa saw its median price rise 16.2percent to $261,500 compared with a year earlier, while in Baldwin Park ($232,500), home prices fell 1.1percent compared to a year ago. Whittier ($320,000) was up 3.2 percent while Hacienda Heights' ($325,000) median price was down 3 percent.

Cross-currents in the market are playing themselves out in the numbers, Realtors and economists said.

The low end of the market continues to see interest among buyers, which is driving prices up.

"The median price has gone down so low, it's got to go up," said Monrovia Realtor Marty Rodriguez. "The very bottom has bottomed."

Indeed, the percentage of homes less than $500,000 increased to 77percent of all sales in January, compared to 75 percent in December, California Association of Realtors reported.

Still, across the state home sales fell 10.6 percent in January compared to the same period a year ago, CAR reported. And while sales remained above the 500,000 unit mark for the 17th consecutive month, low inventories coupled with high demand from investors and first-time home buyers is helping to drive up prices, Rodriguez said.

That picture was evident nationally as home prices edged up in December, the seventh straight monthly gain and another sign the housing market continues its bumpy recovery. Prices have been steadily increasing from month to month, climbing almost 4 percent off the bottom in May.

Rising prices are vital to the economy because they help rebuild home equity for home owners, and demand helps create a ripple effect of jobs for other businesses from construction to furniture, Rodriguez said.

On the other hand, there's lingering concern among Realtors and economists that the market could take another dip. Federal home buyer tax incentives expire in April, a program to keep mortgage rates low ends in March and looming foreclosures are set to come onto the market.

"Prices have stabilized and are starting to rise, but forces that will bring them back down are growing," wrote Patrick Newport, an economist with IHS Global Insight.

Michelle Meyer, an economist with Barclay's Capital Research, said prices could fall about 5 percent from current levels.

"The most likely outcome is that it will take years to work through the glut of foreclosures, keeping home prices bouncing around the bottom for quite some time," Meyer wrote in a research report.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.