PEORIA — Fewer people had their homes on the market during the first quarter of 2019, and overall sales were down slightly compared to the same period last year, according to data released Wednesday by the Peoria Area Association of Realtors.

The overall slow-down is attributable to many things, PAAR president Suzanne Miller said. But among the culprits is likely weather, with fewer buyers braving "polar vortex" temperatures to look at homes.

The decrease in the number of homes for sale — at their lowest rate since 2013 — may also have contributed.

"It's difficult to sell what's not available," Miller said.

She said that the opportunity exists for sellers to get into the market because of the low inventory.

"We need more properties," Miller said. "Buyers are champing at the bit."

There were bright spots, though, including a nearly 20 percent increase in sales of homes between the prices of $175,000 and $225,000.

The announcement from the Federal Reserve that interest rate hikes are unlikely for the remainder of the year is also likely to spur interest from buyers and boost the industry, PAAR officials said.

Locally, properties in the highest demand at present are in the $75,000 to $225,000 range, they said.

Activity, though, is beginning to pick up, Miller suggested.

"We're heading into the spring market," she said. "People are like, 'OK, it's time, we've been inside for so long.' People are starting to put their homes on the market."