The pace of sales of existing home in the United States fell in January to a 4.49 million-unit annual rate while home prices and inventories dropped, the National Association of Realtors said on Wednesday.

Economists polled by Reuters were expecting home resales to rise to a 4.79 million-unit pace, from the 4.74 million rate initially reported for December, which was unchanged.

The inventory of existing homes for sale fell 2.7 percent to 3.60 million from the 3.70 million overstock reported in December.

The median national home price declined 14.8 percent from a year ago to $170,300 - the lowest since a $169,400 level seen in March 2003.

(Reporting by Patrick Rucker, Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)