NEW YORK  - Homebuyers in much of the United States paid thousands of dollars below asking prices in January, and gained negotiating power for a second straight month, real estate website said on Wednesday.

According to Zillow Real Estate Market Reports for January, buyers paid 2.8 percent less, or a median of $5,823 below the listing price, on homes bought in January -- up from $5,717, or 2.7 percent, discount for homes bought in December.

That gain, however, was still far less than the peak reached in January 2009 when buyers negotiated a median 4.5 percent, or $10,178, off the last listing price of homes.

For much of 2009, buyer discounts shrank as real estate markets across the country improved and December marked the first time in 11 months that buyers gained back negotiating power.

The data is calculated by comparing the last listing price of individual homes and the final sale price.

November had marked the 10th consecutive month discounts shrunk, meaning buyers were negotiating less and less off the final asking price each month.

More negotiating power for buyers tends to put downward pressure on overall home prices and may push more mortgages underwater. This negative equity has been one of the biggest banes of homeowners, making many unqualified for home loan refinancing and preventing some from selling.

Borrowers in negative equity, meaning they owe more on their mortgage than their home is currently worth, are more prone to defaults and foreclosures.

In January, 19.8 percent of the listings on Zillow had a price cut, down from 20.5 percent in December. In January 2009, 33.8 percent of listings had a price cut.

In some markets, buyers continued to negotiate large discounts. In fact, the biggest discounts continued to be found in Florida, although buyers in several New York City-area metros also found relatively large discounts during January.

Home sellers, however, continued to do well in several markets, with most buyers in areas like El Centro and Stockton, California, paying more than the last listing price of homes sold in January, the reports showed.