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AREA HOME SALES LAST YEAR TOPPED EACH MONTH IN 1997

Local realtors recorded another solid month in December, capping a year when single-family home and condominium unit sales rose nearly 13 percent and sales volume for every month improved from 1997.

According to the Greater Buffalo Association of Realtors, a total of 9,096 units were sold in 1998, easily outpacing the 8,066 units sold the year before.

Prices also improved slightly in 1998, running about 3 percent higher through November.

The association publishes a comprehensive annual report on the sales volume and prices broken down by local geographic region which is scheduled to be released in early February.

A total of 533 units were sold in December, surging 26.6 percent from 421 units sold during the same month last year. The market continues to benefit from growing demand and low interest rates. The weather in December also helped sales.

"Hard as it may seem to remember, the weather in December was exceptional," said Daniel Symoniak, executive vice president of the association.

The median sale price rose from $78,500 in December 1997 to $82,046 in December 1998. The median price represents the middle point, with half the sales priced above the median and half the sales recorded at a lower price.

The market continues to be dominated by low-budget housing. Only 25 homes sold for more than $200,000 in December, while 55 homes sold for less than $30,000.

Those figures could be slightly skewed by the reporting of Department of Housing and Urban Development properties. Some brokerages collect data on homes sold through HUD and do not report those figures until December.

The inventory of homes for sale in the Buffalo area also continued its market correction in December. A total of 6,056 homes were on the multiple listing system in December, down from 6,968 during December 1997.

Total new listings dropped 7 percent last year, according to Greater Buffalo Association of Realtors figures. Market conditions remain strong, Symoniak said.

"As we look back over the trailing three to six months, we should get off to a very good start in 1999," he said.

January sales figures could be severely hurt by the weather. Market activity came to a virtual standstill during the brutal winter conditions of early January, Symoniak said.

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