The 15 cities, including Shanghai, saw year-on-year price growth decelerating 0.5-6.4 percentage points compared with April, the National Bureau of Statistics said yesterday.
In monthly terms, average prices grew in 56 of the 70 cities surveyed.
"While a moderation in price growth in first- and second-tier cities shows the curbs had some effects, we must note that prices are still rising with new unit prices at record high levels", said Sam Xie, head of research at property services provider CBRE China.
A total of 29 cities witnessed a slower price rise year on year in May, said the NBS.
"Prices of newly built homes in 15 major cities including Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen continued to stabilize in May on the back of targeted local government policies", said NBS statistician Liu Jianwei.
On a yearly basis, house prices advanced in 69 cities in May, as seen in April. A straight average for the 15 listed top-tier cities dropped nearly 3 percentage points to annualized growth of 16.2 percent.
Month-on-month prices in those cities increased by 0.1 percent in April to 0.05 percent last month. The year on year growth decorated for the sixth consecutive month since its peak in November, when it grew by 12.6 percent.
Xia Dan, a senior researcher at the Bank of Communications, predicted prices in previously red-hot markets like Beijing would continue easing.
The property market, however, picked up its pace in February this year after price gains slowed in previous months, which has led to the biggest wave of tightening of home purchases and lending rules since mid-March.
Bengbu rose 3.4 percent in a month its largest rally out of 70 cities tracked while southern Zhanjiang climbed 2.6 percent in May from April. In the pre-owned home market, 18 cities registered slower year-on-year price rises.
Economist Larry Hu said that it is evident that prices are increasing but at a slower rate although the headwinds will be stronger for the second half particularly next year.
Smaller cities also restraint population inflows and have less residential second-home markets, making the current increase in prices there limited.
"Once people there have bought up property, their next home [purchase] might be five years later", Mr. Hu says.