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BELLS ARE RINGING AGAIN <br> REALTORS GET MORE CALLS AFTER TERRORIST ATTACKS SLOWED SALES

A summer of record-breaking sales continued in August, when homes sold for prices not seen in the Buffalo Niagara region since 1992. However, the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks sent shock waves through the market that experts believe will hurt sales slightly in September and, coupled with the slowing economy, prevent any more record breaking for the rest of this year.

"From the day the attacks started and into the next week, things slowed down dramatically," said Dan Symoniak, general manager of Stovroff Realty, the state's largest independent real estate agency. "Telephones stopped ringing and a lot of us stopped working. We spent a good part of the day, like everyone else, staring at the TVs trying to figure out what was going on."

However the phones have started ringing again, he said, and real estate agents are busy showing homes.

Housing sales for September are expected to look much like they do when a blizzard hits the area and no one wants to plow through snow to look at homes.

Smaller real estate agencies report seeing some slow down in new buyers entering the market.

"The people who were thinking of buying a home, I don't believe they've changed their minds," said Bill Severyn, a broker and owner of Century 21 Professionals in Lancaster. "But those who would have been considering it are waiting right now."

Many are putting off the decision because of uncertainty about the future and their jobs in the wake of layoffs in the airline and related industries, he said.

Most real estate agencies believe sales for the rest of the year will be stable -- neither breaking any records nor
falling off dramatically, said Lou Izzo, executive vice president for Hunt Real Estate, the area's second largest real estate agency.

As a result, August could be the end to a record-breaking summer that started in May when prices hit a seven-year high.

The average price of the 967 homes sold in August was $97,435 -- the highest average price for that month since 1992 when the average price was $102,470, according to figures from the Buffalo Niagara Association of Realtors.

The median price of $84,500 also was the highest since 1992 when the median price was $86,300. The median price means half the homes sold for more and half sold for less.

And real estate agents sold 967 homes last month -- another all-time high for the month of August.

However, this year's record breaking sales do not make up for a decade of stagnation while the real estate market in the rest of the country exploded. For example, if the median price of homes sold in 1992, $86,300, had kept up with inflation, the median price of a home today would be $108,600. That means home prices in the Buffalo Niagara area have fallen 29 percent between today and 1992 when inflation is taken into account.

Across the nation, the median sale price of a home rose 39 percent during the same time.

e-mail: lhaarlander@buffnews.com

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