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Western New York home sales soar by 32.9% as February prices set records

What a difference a year makes.

Closed sales of homes in February soared by 32.9 percent from February 2015, hitting 682 from 513, according to new data from the Buffalo Niagara Association of Realtors, BNAR. That’s the second straight month of double-digit increases from the previous year, on the heels of what was already a record-setting year in 2015. And it’s the highest sales level for February since 2005.

Overall, closed transactions for January and February were up by 29.1 percent, to 1,442.

Prices also rose. The median sales price rose by 7.7 percent, to $119,500, while the average rose by 6.5 percent, to $141,962. Both figures set records for February.

“We’re comparing it with a really horrible weather situation last year, but last year was our best year ever in 104 years, and this year is well ahead of last year,” said Peter F. Hunt, CEO of Hunt Real Estate Corp. “Some is due to a better set of weather conditions, but our market activity is very strong, and our agents seem to be very optimistic. It’s just generally a very healthy situation.”

And the primary sales season hasn’t begun. “The heart of the selling season has yet to begin, so we’re still optimistically watching for an increase in activity in the coming months,” BNAR said in its report.

Western New Yorkers have been enjoying the benefits and frustrations of a frenetic market for the last two years, as low interest rates, a dearth of available homes, and a growing confidence in the city and its neighborhoods have combined to drive sales to levels not seen here in at least 16 years. Well-maintained and attractive homes in popular neighborhoods and suburbs are selling almost as soon as they’re listed, with bidding wars common.

“We have certain neighborhoods that are red-hot, where there’s not enough inventory,” Hunt said. “But we have a lot of frustrated buyers out there.”

That’s certainly reflected in the closed deals. Moreover, while completed deals reflect contracts signed in prior months, even pending sales leaped by 17 percent in February, to 855. That follows a 12 percent rise in January. Sales are up by 15 percent for the first two months of the year, to 1,637.

The rush in activity is drawing more new listings, as current homeowners are eager to see what their properties will fetch, especially with the onset of spring. New listings in February rose by 23.5 percent, to 1,179 – the most for February since 2010, although they’re up by only 3.5 percent for the first two months of this year, after a disappointing decline in January.

However, that’s not enough to cover the pace of sales and withdrawals of some homes from the listings, so the total inventory of homes for sale dropped by 12 percent, to 3,858. That’s the lowest inventory for any month of the year in Western New York since early 2004.

At the current sales pace, that’s just enough for 3.8 months of sales, down by 22.4 percent from a year ago, and down to nearly half the six-month level that is considered healthy. “If the seller is even thinking about selling, there may never be a better time,” Hunt said. “We know the buyer demand is there now.”

BNAR reports arm’s-length transactions from its Realtor members in the eight-county area of Western New York, plus a few sales from Monroe and Livingston counties.

email: jepstein@buffnews.com