The region’s housing market continued to ride a wave in July.
And even if July ends up as the crest, real estate professionals say this will be remembered as a standout year.
The number of closed deals in the eight-county area of Western New York increased nearly 22 percent in July, to 1,153 from 947 a year ago, the Buffalo Niagara Association of Realtors said. That was the best total for any month since June 2010, when homebuyers were rushing to tap into a federal tax credit that was expiring.
The median sale price for July was $132,750, up 4.1 percent from last year and the highest for any month in the past three years. Median means half of the homes sold for more than that amount, and half sold for less.
The average sale price was $163,162, up 7 percent from July 2012 and the highest in the past three years.
The numbers contribute to what was already a robust home sales market in Western New York this year. Sales have increased over the previous year for four straight months, and in six of the seven months for which results are available. Through July, the number of closed deals was up 8.6 percent from a year ago, to 5,534.
“Generally speaking, I think this will go down as one of the best years in real estate history,” said Peter Hunt, chief executive officer of Hunt Real Estate Corp.
Low interest rates have fueled the buying surge. While rates recently moved higher, Hunt notes that the closed deals recorded for July reflect activity from late April or May, when rates were even lower. “That was probably the end of the very best time in the market we’ve seen in a very, very long time,” he said.
Hunt said he talks with his agents regularly about whether the recent rate hike has triggered a drop-off in homebuying activity. So far, he said, that has not been the case. But there is usually a seasonal flow to home sales, with a high in July or August before school resumes. Even if there is a decline in sales from July to August, Hunt expects August will still be a strong month.
Phil Aquila, general manager of MJ Peterson Real Estate Corp., called this the “best year we’ve had in five years.” He wonders if some prospective homebuyers who have grown accustomed to extremely low rates might get off the fence before rates climb higher.
“Everything’s still relative,” Aquila said. “You can still get a 4 percent mortgage. It’s still really great.”
An ongoing issue is inventory, which is relatively low. That has led to competitive bidding on many homes, not to mention higher sale prices, but it is also making it harder for some prospective buyers to find a home they want.
There were 5,422 homes on the market in July, BNAR said. While inventory has been climbing since the start of the year, it was still down nearly 14 percent from a year ago and was far below the roughly 7,000 homes on the market two years ago. The number of new listings in July was up 10.3 percent, to 1,755.
When homes sell quickly, more properties need to go on the market in order to replenish the inventory. And Hunt noted a lot of homeowners have recently refinanced, which adds another wrinkle to creating more inventory. “You’re going to be reluctant to sell unless there’s an absolutely obvious place to go,” he said.
Will the dazzling July figures turn out to be the 2013 peak?
“It’s hard to say,” Aquila said. “Our August wasn’t as busy as our July.”
In each of the past two years, August was Western New York’s top sales month. And BNAR statistics show more deals are in the pipeline. In July, pending home sales – in which a contract was signed but a deal has not been closed – were up 11.5 percent from the year before. But on a month-over-month basis, the number of pending deals fell in June and July.