Buyers' interest in condominiums and cooperatives weakened during the third quarter, as resales dropped 12.6 percent from the second quarter and 5.5 percent from year-ago levels, the National Association of Realtors reported.

The association said the condo and co-op annual sales rate declined to 312,000 units during the period and quarter-to-quarter declines were posted in all regions except the South. The median price for existing condos was $84,400 during the third quarter, unchanged from a year ago.

With the Persian Gulf crisis and an economic downturn grabbing much attention lately, "Fear of the unknown kept many home buyers out of the market," said Norman Flynn, the association's president. Flynn said credit for condo purchases remained available during the quarter and remains available now.

In the South, condo and co-op sales rose 1.1 percent during the quarter and a strong 10.5 percent from year-earlier levels. Flynn said most of the South's condo market is concentrated in Florida, and appeals to the influx of retirees to the region.

Southern condo prices slipped 3.5 percent from year-earlier levels to a median of $66,500. But elsewhere in the nation, condo prices took a dive during the quarter.

In the Northeast, the region with the greatest supply of condos, sales dropped 16.6 percent during the quarter and 14.8 percent from year-ago levels.

The Northeast's generally sluggish real estate market has made single-family homes more attractive to potential condo buyers, Flynn said. The median price for condos in the region rose 2.3 percent from year-ago levels to $115,100 while the median home price dropped 2.7 percent to $143,100.

Condo sales in the West dropped 17.4 percent during the quarter and were down 2.6 percent from year-earlier levels. Again, the drop was attributed to lower prices for single-family homes.

Condo prices in the West dropped 16 percent during the quarter from year-ago levels to a median of $92,300.

In the Midwest, condo sales were off 20.8 percent from the second quarter and down 9.5 percent from year-earlier levels. The sales decline failed to bring down prices, which rose 4.8 percent to a median of $69,200.