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Record high prices, record low inventory mark February home sales

Fewer houses sold in February in Western New York than in the same month in each of the past two years, as it became increasingly more difficult for buyers to find their dream homes.

But those that did sell garnered the highest prices ever paid in the depths of winter.

New data from the Buffalo Niagara Association of Realtors showed closed sales fell 13.2 percent in the second month of the year, to 617 from 711 a year ago and 713 in February 2016. Even more, sales fell 22 percent from 790 in January of this year.

However, that's still the third-highest level of sales for the month of February since 2005, indicating the market remains strong.

Pending sales, where a deal has been signed but not sealed, fell 7.3 percent to 774 from 835 in February of each of the past two years, according to BNAR data. That's only a slight dip from January, but it's still the third-highest level for February since 2010.

A key part of the problem is the lack of enough available options to satisfy the buyers, who are forced to bid aggressively against each other for the same houses. New listings in February fell 13 percent to 930 – the fewest for the month since at least 2000 – and they're down 16 percent for the first two months of the year.

That means the supply is not being replenished as rapidly as it's being sold or withdrawn from the market. The total inventory of available houses for sale in February plunged 16 percent, to 2,441. That's the lowest inventory recorded for the Buffalo Niagara region for any month of the year since at least 1999.

The resulting bidding war, meanwhile, continues to drive up the prices. The average sales price soared 17.8 percent in February to $162,096 – a new record for the month, and higher than any month of the year before 2013.

Similarly, the median price – half sold for more and half for less – rose 12.6 percent to $135,000. That's also a record high for the month, and higher than any month of the year before 2014, the data showed.

BNAR reports arms-length transactions by its member Realtors in the eight-county area of Western New York, plus a handful of sales in Livingston and Monroe counties.

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