Home sales in the Hartford area are slowing, and it’s primarily due to sagging buyer interest in the least expensive houses on the market.

Sales of single-family houses priced at less than $200,000 have dropped by 24 percent for the first six months of 2003 compared with the same period last year, according to the Greater Hartford Association of Realtors.

“I’ve had clients who’ve gotten mad, and they’ve gone to other agents, but inventory is inventory, and there is not a lot of it out there,” said Sara Truesdale, an agent with Century 21 Clemens & Sons in Hartford.

Quality Lacking

Sales in nearly every other price category have jumped by as much as 35 percent.

Economists expected different results. A slowing market tends to push down luxury-home demand, which then moves down to less expensive properties.

Economists now say they believe sales of less expensive houses are sagging because of a lack of quality inventory for lower-priced houses, low interest rates that allow buyers to afford more expensive houses and rising joblessness that hurts lower-earning workers.

The Realtor association reports 2,393 sales of single-family houses priced below $200,000 for the first six months of the year, a drop of 24 percent since the first half of 2002.

Sales of houses priced $400,000 to $499,900 increased by 35 percent in the same period, from 167 sales to 225.

And sales of luxury homes priced $500,000 and higher rose by 15 percent, from 176 sales to 203.

The association’s statistics are from its multiple listing service, which includes most houses for sale in the Hartford area.

Buyers who can afford to wait are taking their time finding a home, Truesdale said. But buyers who need to find a home quickly are compromising on the condition of the house, square footage or location, she said. (AP)