Home sales dropped almost 25 percent statewide in June compared with the same time last year, while the median price of an existing home increased 3.2 percent, according to a California Association of Realtors report.

Sales of high-end homes and their prices increased for the month of June across certain parts of California, but not in the Inland Empire.

What's happening in San Bernardino and Riverside counties is more like a tug of war. Sellers won't budge from prices they think their homes are worth and buyers sit tight in hopes prices will drop, according to economists and real-estate professionals.

"They don't get the market," Redlands-based regional economist John Husing said about buyers. "They don't understand it. They think prices are too high."

Homes in coastal counties, selling for $600,000 to well over $1 million, are in slightly higher demand and account for this paradox.

However, only half as many homes are selling in the San Bernardino/Riverside area compared with June 2006, and their prices have decreased 3.4 percent.

The median price of a home in San Bernardino and Riverside counties at the end of June was $390,230, CAR reported.

Robert Kleinhenz, deputy chief economist at CAR, said Inland Empire home sellers are comfortable with waiting for prices to rise - just as much as buyers are waiting for prices to drop.

"People are looking at history and saying, `If I just wait this out a little longer, I might get a better deal,"' he said.

Of course, the psychological effects of foreclosures are also weighing on the minds of potential home buyers.

DataQuick, which monitors real-estate activity nationwide, reported Wednesday that statewide foreclosures soared to a record high of more than 17,400, and one out of every five happen in San Bernardino and Riverside counties.

With numbers like these, it's hard for buyers to justify paying for a house that could end up in foreclosure in the near future, according to Pete Gliniak, a Covina-based real-estate professional who specializes in bankruptcies and short sales all over the Inland Empire.

"Now the mind-set is, `We'll wait until the prices come down or wait until they come to foreclosure,' which in their minds is a heavily discounted price," he said about buyers.

Homes sales and prices are also dropping because of an overstock in housing inventory.

"The builders have been working this down for the past 18 months or so," Kleinhenz said. "Builders are offering larger and larger discounts for people to (buy) and move."

Kleinhenz's comments echo CAR's statewide findings. It would take about 10 months for the supply of homes to be depleted with current sales rates, the report states, compared with about six months last year at this time.

Gliniak calls it "oversaturation" and thinks too many people bought expensive homes in the two-county area that they couldn't afford and "had no business buying them," he said.

"People got caught up in the frenzy of 2005 and it spilled into 2006," he said of new home builders and buyers.

One thing that is definitely happening is that home sales are slow. Earlier this month, DataQuick Information Services of La Jolla reported that home sales in the Southland in June were the lowest for the month since 1993.

According to DataQuick, 20,166 homes were sold in the six Southern California counties, well below the average June of 29,041 and barely above the 19,947 homes sold in June 1993.

"We're probably pretty close to the `floor' level of buying and selling, meaning that most of the activity is basic and not discretionary," DataQuick President Marshall Prentice said in a release. "Today's buyers and sellers really need to move for one reason or another, not because they want a guest room or bigger yard. The exception seems to be high-end markets, most of which are doing pretty well."

Nonetheless, the foreclosure market brings fresh opportunities for some real-estate experts.

Such is the case for Steve Thomas, co-owner of Rancho Cucamonga-

based CIG Property Management and Investment. He hopes to capitalize on the housing market's downturn by buying foreclosed properties in places like Fontana, Rialto and Highland.

"I'm able to find properties easily at $50,000 below market, and sometimes $100,000," he said. "California is going to go through a growth spurt. Within the next cycle, those with lots of properties are going to do well."

However, the housing market's selling side wasn't so good to him just a few months ago. After having a 20-year-old north Fontana home on the market for four months - and lowering the price by $20,000 - he put it up for auction. His effort still wasn't successful, so he pulled the house off the market.

"What's attracting buyers right now is two things: one is price; and two, the amenities and location," Thomas said. "With as many new homes available, why would someone want to go buy an older home?"

Husing, who focuses on the two-county region, and others have said numerous times that the housing market won't sort itself out until at least the first part of 2008. There are too many homes on the market, and the mortgage market - particularly for first-time buyers - has become brutally tight.

Business editor Michael Rappaport contributed to this story.

Writer Matt Wrye can be reached at (909) 386-3890 or by e-mail at matthew.wrye@sbsun.com