SAN DIEGO - The hip Atria condos have a lot to offer young professionals and empty-nesters — a prime downtown address, skyline views, gym, rooftop deck and units starting at $300,000.
Developers are even offering free plasma TVs and $5,000 home renovation gift certificates to lure skittish buyers in what had been one of the nation’s hottest real estate markets.
With sales stalled by a spreading slowdown, incentives are on the rise in San Diego and other big cities that saw explosive condo construction during the boom.
But in real estate, as in dating, signs of desperation can be counterproductive. Many prospective buyers are shrugging off the enticements.
‘‘We can wait a while and try to get the most for our money,’’ said Andy Albert, an empty-nester who recently sold his home in a suburban beach community — after knocking 10 percent off the asking price.
Like many would-be buyers, Albert and his wife intend to rent an apartment near his downtown law office while they keep looking for the best possible deal.
San Diego County was at the forefront of the national housing boom that began five years ago. But it recently became the first major California real estate market to see its annual median price for houses and condos slide since the run-up began.
In July the figure dropped 1.8 percent to $487,000, according to DataQuick Information Systems, a real estate tracking firm based in La Jolla. Meanwhile, sales dipped nearly 30 percent due in part to a sharp decline in demand for condos in the newly redeveloped downtown core.
‘‘The only people who are buying right now are the people who really need to,’’ said Peter Dennehy of the Sullivan Group Real Estate Advisors, a San Diego consulting firm.
‘‘There are a lot of people waiting on the sidelines, because they’re under the perception that they’ll get a big deal if they hold off,’’ he said.
Once high-flying condo markets around the nation have been bogged down by sagging demand and rising interest rates. Areas of California, Nevada and Arizona have been particularly hard hit, analysts said.
In Las Vegas, at least three major condo projects backed by high-wattage investors such as George Clooney, Michael Jordan and Ivana Trump have been put on hold. Developers have also deepsixed major complexes in Philadelphia and Miami-Dade County in Florida.
In California, the condo slowdown has been particularly pronounced in San Diego and the Central Valley, where rapid urbanization attracted a number of investors who are now rethinking their strategies, according to Michael Carliner, an economist with the National Association of Home Builders.
In San Diego County, a total of 1,794 new condos went into escrow in the first half of the year — a third less than in the first half of 2005, according to MarketPointe Realty Advisors.
‘‘Buyers downtown are people who can choose between San Diego and other places,’’ said Gary London, president of the London Group, a San Diego real estate consulting firm.
‘‘This is the first time we’ve experienced a housing recession where the oversupply is in urban units rather than single-family homes,’’ he said.
And many new projects are currently under construction, threatening to exacerbate the problem. The city’s Centre City Development Corp. estimated 3,562 new condo units in 34 projects were in the works in July.
To help jump-start sales, condo developers throughout the county are turning to financial incentives and street-side gimmicks.
One complex that bills itself as a resort-style community just north of downtown is advertising $35,000 discounts on units already tricked out with stainless steel appliances.
Developer Maisel Presley is selling condos online by dropping the price by $1,000 a day until a unit sells. A new development in upscale La Jolla is dangling zero money down programs to lure buyers.
‘‘We’re in a market that requires incentives, and just about everybody has got some sort of a program for their buyers,’’ said Ed Easley, president of Crown Pacific Properties.