The volume of houses sold in NSW fell in the first quarter of the year as homebuyers stayed on the sidelines, new data showed. The Real Estate Institute of New South Wales (REINSW) data revealed that overall home sales in the state dropped by 6.8% while property prices fell by 2% in Sydney. Amongst the hardest hit were Ashfield, with sales volumes falling 37% in the period, and in Penrith by about 30.70% in the first three months of the year. REINSW also reported that property prices fell by 2% in Sydney and grew only by 0.2% in NSW as a whole. Only Newcastle properties managed some gains, with property prices rising by 3.82% in the same period. With prices falling by 2.89%, homebuyers snapped up well-located properties in Blacktown, pushing sales volumes up by 140% on 1993 sales. Sutherland is also popular, with total sales rising by 904 which is a volume growth of 82%. Cristine Castle, president of REINSW, said the older suburbs around Sydney have been favoured during the last quarter. "It is about people staying with the tried and tested. Access to good public transport, the water and other lifestyle factors is what people want," Castle said. April 2007 Sydney vacancy rates (1.4%) resulted in a once again tight rental market, and the REINSW has said the demand for the rental market outstripping supply has pushed rents up. "Until we see investors encouraged back into the property market we won't see an easing of rental conditions," said Castle.