Herbert Facchina knows what he wants -- and what he wants is $495,000 for his house.

The retired construction supervisor and his wife, Anne, have had their four-bedroom rambler in McLean for sale since last spring. A few months ago, after no offers, they cut their asking price to $495,000 from $536,000. They're determined to hold out for $495,000.

"We're not going to give it away," Facchina said, who built the house himself in 1959. "That would be ridiculous."

Real estate agents and firms increasingly are saying that they don't want clients like the Facchinas. Some home sellers are stubbornly clinging to prices that real estate brokers said just aren't realistic in today's soft market in the Washington area.

They have contributed to what market observers call a gridlock or an impasse in the market that partly accounts for slumping sales. Sellers won't drop their prices and buyers won't raise their offers. In the meantime, the supply of homes for sale mounts.

"There are a lot of unrealistic owners," said Jim Reichman, president of a Help-U-Sell franchise in Springfield. "There are a lot of people {who say}, 'But I don't want to give my house away.' "

As a result, realty firms and agents are taking action.

Long & Foster Real Estate Inc., the largest realty firm in the Washington area, has directed its managers not to accept overpriced listings, said the company's president, P. Wesley Foster Jr. If homeowners insist on asking for a higher price than the firm's real estate agents estimate the house is worth, "we don't want them," Foster said.

In some cases, he said, the firm has turned down listings or has dropped listings where it thought the home seller was being unrealistic.

Pardoe Real Estate Inc., which sells mostly high-priced houses in McLean, Potomac, Chevy Chase and Georgetown, also is turning down listings.

"We don't take a listing unless it's realistically priced," said the firm's general manager, Marc McGee. In many cases, the firm's sales agents ask homeowners to agree in writing to drop the price of the house after 30 days if there has been little or no buyer interest in the property, McGee said.

The practice is aimed at real estate agents, as well as home sellers, who might be tempted to fall back into the practice of "testing the market" by asking for ever-higher prices, McGee said.

"Those days are gone. Forget it," McGee said. "They may be back, but they're not here now."

Reichman takes an even tougher stance. In listing agreements with some home sellers, his firm stipulates exactly how much the asking price will fall if the home is not sold in 30 days and how much further the asking price will fall if the home is not sold in 60 days.

Reichman also said he refuses up to 75 percent of the home sellers who want to use Help-U-Sell to sell their house. "It costs us every week to market that house," Reichman said. "If it's not priced right, we walk away from it."

A couple in Springfield went through four real estate firms in 1 1/2 years instead of slashing their asking price, Reichman said. They had originally listed their house for $315,000, and had reluctantly cut the price to $289,000. They then held firm, going from one real estate firm to another with no success in selling their house. Finally, they cut the price and sold the house for $255,000.

Barry Hayman, a real estate agent with Dale Denton Real Estate Inc. on Capitol Hill, has also dropped listings and allowed listings to expire in cases where he felt homeowners had unrealistically high expectations of the price their house would fetch.

In one case, the owner of a house on Capitol Hill wanted $205,000 for the house, which would have meant a hefty profit for the two years he owned it. After no offers were received for the home, the owner reluctantly lowered the price to $190,000, but refused to lower the price further. Hayman let the listing expire.

"People have expectations that aren't necessarily warranted," he said.

The reluctance by home sellers to lower their asking prices is due to a number of reasons. First, some sellers have the "not my house" syndrome -- that is, they know the market is slow, but they think their house is exempt.

Others, mostly people who bought homes in the last one or two years when prices in some areas have stagnated or fallen, simply can't drop their asking prices because they can't afford to take less for the house. And some retirees have counted on receiving a certain sum from their house to ensure a comfortable retirement or to buy a new home.

For some sellers, a higher listing price is merely a negotiating ploy. Aware that buyers are often knocking thousands, or tens of thousands, off the listed price for higher-priced homes, some sellers deliberately keep their asking prices high. "They know sellers are going to come in and negotiate," said Cameo Nouvelle, president of Unique Properties of Virginia.

And real estate agents acknowledge that some sellers are led on by sales agents who tell the seller his house is worth more than it really is.

"There are still agents out there who try to overprice a house in order to get the listing," a Northern Virginia real estate agent said. "And they're dangerous."

Still other sellers feel peer pressure: They don't want to tell neighbors that their house isn't worth as much as they thought it was.

Real estate agents note that, in most cases, home sellers aren't "losing" money when they lower their asking price. Unless they bought their house in the last one or two years, they're simply being asked to accept lower appreciation than they might have gotten a couple of years ago.

But, said Reichman: "It's damned near impossible to beat that into sellers. They think they're losing money. They think they're devaluing the neighborhood."

In this price-conscious market, a realistic asking price can be crucial to a quick, successful sale, real estate brokers said.

"If they sincerely want to get their house sold, they can do it," said Phil Wineman, a top-selling agent with Coldwell Banker Real Estate in Montgomery County. "It's a question of whether they're willing to do the things they need to do to get the house sold."

Some sellers will go to great lengths to keep from taking less than they want for their house. One McLean homeowner sold his $600,000 house, but only after he bought the buyer's $250,000 town house. The McLean homeowner plans to renovate the town house and put it back on the market.

"I think in this type of market, that is the sort of thing you have to do to move a house," said the homeowner, who requested anonymity.

More recently, some agents said they have seen signs that sellers are becoming more willing to accept less than they believed their house was worth. And that's good news to the area's beleaguered home builders.

"I think it's a sign that our housing market will return," said Tom Eckert, president of the Northern Virginia division of Pulte Homes.

Home builders have been plagued with problems caused by buyers who sign a contract to buy a new house, then cancel the contract because they can't sell their current house for as much as they need to buy the new house.

It leaves the home builders with a partly or fully completed house and no buyer. A few home builders have cancelation rates of as high as 50 percent, according to sources in the industry.

Home sellers with stars in their eyes, and some overambitious real estate agents, are by no means the only problems with the slow real estate market.

"I'm more worried about the buyers," said Don May, a Maryland vice president of the realty firm of Shannon & Luchs Co., the area's second-largest realty firm. He said signs of an economic slowdown in the area have frightened some would-be home buyers, while others have been jolted in the last month by the prospect of war in the Middle East.

Broker Mitchell Schneider, who runs an Arlington realty firm, expects the standoff between buyers and sellers to continue.

Homeowners are notoriously reluctant to lower the price they're willing to accept for their home, even if they would still make a hefty profit, he said.

"The question is, who's going to come down? The sellers or the buyers?" Schneider said. "I think the buyers will win and the sellers will cave in. But it'll take a while."