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REALTORS POST 13 PERCENT GAIN IN EXISTING HOME SALES IN AUGUST

Eager buyers continued gobbling up property in the Buffalo area's crowded and affordable real estate market in August.

The Greater Buffalo Association of Realtors reported August sales figures Wednesday of 913 single-family home and condominium units, a brisk 13 percent jump from the 810 sales in August 1998.

The upswing in sales over the last 18 months -- driven by low mortgage rates, low unemployment and modest local job growth -- is now making a noticeable impact on the inventory.

The realtors association had 8,444 homes listed in August 1997, which dropped to 7,766 listings in August 1998 and only 6,965 active listings in the recently completed month.

The decline in the number of homes for sale is beginning to work in favor of sellers in certain neighborhoods.

"I see it as a pretty even market. I certainly have received more multiple offers this year than I have in the last couple of years," said Elayne Nowak, a broker with Re/Max Allstar Team Realty in Williamsville.

The average sale price was up slightly in August, to $94,606, but the median sale price dropped $2,000 to $82,000. The median price measures the middle point, with half the sales below the median and half the sales higher.

The area-wide price figures are a general gauge and market values are really more closely reflected by sales activity in specific neighborhoods.

Parts of the city market have a huge number of homes selling for less than $82,000, which serves to hold the median down. Realtors association president Scott Pytlak said the large stock of affordable housing helps first-time home buyers.

"The abundance of quality homes available under $100,000 makes Western New York, and especially the city of Buffalo, a bargain compared with the rest of the country," he said.

About two-thirds of all sales, 602 units, were for less than $100,000 in August while only 42 sales topped $200,000.

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