Property sales fell by more than 30 percent in major cities during the May Day holiday compared with the same period last year, according to property agency Centaline Group.
This holiday period used to see brisk transactions.
Dragged down by the first-tier cities of Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen, 9,887 apartments were sold in transactions in the country's 54 major cities, a drop of 32.5 percent from last year.
The nation's real estate business is cooling quicker than many people expected, according to industry specialists.
Second-tier cities－mostly provincial capitals－saw housing sales drop by about 35 percent
"The scale of the sales decline in first- and second-tier cities has exceeded that in smaller cities, and the situation will continue," said Zhang Dawei, chief analyst at Centaline Group's Beijing branch.
Housing sales in smaller cities have been sluggish since last year, Zhang added.
The Beijing Commission of Housing and Urban-Rural Development said only 169 apartments were sold from May 1 to 3, down by nearly 80 percent from the same period last year and a record low since 2008.
In Shenzhen, Guangdong province, only 49 apartments were sold during the holiday, compared with 133 last year.
A total of 423 apartments were sold in Shanghai and 405 in Guangzhou, the Guangdong provincial capital, roughly the same as last year.
"Because more developers are willing to offer a discount, I would rather wait for another few months to buy an apartment," said Sun Lin, a 29-year-old company executive in Beijing.
Due to the lackluster performance in the first quarter, some developers have adopted a flat-price strategy or more flexible payment schemes to stimulate sales.
Vanke, the country's largest developer by market value, posted net profit in the first quarter of 1.53 billion yuan ($247 million), a fall of 5.2 percent.
The company's revenue fell by 32.2 percent year-on-year to 9.5 billion yuan during the same period. It was the first time the firm had reported a profit fall in the first quarter for 13 years.
William Kwok, director of Cheung Kong Real Estate, said his company would offer more flexible payments to lure potential buyers.
"We will lower the down payment for our villa projects in Beijing from 60 percent to 50 percent and allow our clients to make their down payments in four installments over two years," Kwok said.