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AREA HOME PRICES INCREASE 6% AS SALES RISE 4%

Home sales in the Buffalo Niagara region rose 4 percent in April, with the median sale price showing strength for the second consecutive month.

A total of 1,052 homes were sold last month, according to the Buffalo Niagara Association of Realtors.

The median sale price increased 6 percent from a year ago to $88,000. The median price means half the number of homes sold for more than that amount, and half sold for less.

Aside from the $92,000 median sale price recorded in March, April's figure was the best for any month in the region since December 1992, according to BNAR statistics. Median price is less influenced by exceptionally high- or low-priced homes than the average sale price. The average price was $104,049, which was up 4.5 percent.

Prospective homebuyers probably won't be surprised to know that the number of homes on the market dropped again from a year ago, this time by 11 percent, to 4,169. That was in spite of a 32 percent increase in new listings compared with April 2002.

April and May typically are robust months for home sales. The last time the region recorded more than 1,000 home sales in one month was May 2002.

About 11 percent of all homes sold in April sold for between $80,000 and $90,000. Only four homes sold for at least $400,000, compared with nine in that price range a year ago.

Merle Whitehead, president and chief executive officer of RealtyUSA, said his firm had a record month in April.

Continued low interest rates and the winding down of the war in Iraq helped spur homebuying activity, Whitehead said.

The refinancing boom has kept some people on the sidelines who might otherwise be selling their homes, a trend that contributes to the shrinking inventory, Whitehead said.

"People used to have more selection," he said.

Compared with five years ago, the number of properties on the market in April was down 47 percent, according to the BNAR.

Through the first four months of 2003, the region's home sales are 2 percent ahead of the same period a year ago.

e-mail: mglynn@buffnews.com

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