SPOKANE, Wash. — Home sales prices in Washington dropped 10.4 percent in the third quarter from the same period last year in the sharpest decline since the Washington Center for Real Estate Research at Washington State University began keeping statistics in 1994.

SPOKANE, Wash. — Home sales prices in Washington dropped 10.4 percent in the third quarter from the same period last year in the sharpest decline since the Washington Center for Real Estate Research at Washington State University began keeping statistics in 1994.

The number of homes sold in the third quarter also was down — 26 percent — from the same period last year. It was at its lowest level since 1996.

The median home sales price in Washington during the third quarter was $281,500, the fourth consecutive quarter of decline.

The median price is the point at which half the homes in question sold for more and half sold for less.

The current median price is roughly the same as the median reported in early 2006.

Median prices ranged from $110,000 in Adams County to $559,000 in San Juan County. Among urban markets the range was $156,400 in Yakima County to $427,000 in King County.

Eight Washington counties reported higher median prices than a year ago, but that is not necessarily good news for sellers because buyers are likely getting more house for the money, said Glenn Crellin, research center director.

The number of homes on the market would seem to indicate that prices will continue to drop, Crellin said.

An inventory of five to seven months worth of homes on the market is considered balanced, with prices increasing on a par with the overall inflation rate. The statewide supply at the end of September was 10.2 months, suggesting prices will decline, Crellin said.

In most markets the supply was highest for the most expensive homes, suggesting prices will stabilize for entry-level homes before the luxury market, he said.