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The seasonal slowdown set in for area home sales in September, but the region still topped last year's total.

A total of 824 homes were sold in the Buffalo Niagara region during the month, up 2 percent from September 2003, according to the Buffalo Niagara Association of Realtors.

It was the lowest monthly total since February, but home sales routinely decline in September from the summer months. Brokers say sales tend to slow partly because the school year gets under way.

The median and average sale prices of homes were virtually unchanged from a year ago. The median price -- meaning half sold for more and half sold for less -- was $89,650, an increase of 1.3 percent, while the average price fell less than 1 percent, to $109,574.

The average price is more likely to be influenced by sales of exceptionally high- or low-priced homes.

Brokers credited continued low interest rates with keeping up the demand for homes.

"It's still a seller's market," said Merle Whitehead, chief executive officer of RealtyUSA, adding that his own firm had a standout September.

Of the 824 homes sold in the region last month, 46 percent were on the market for 30 days or less. Higher-end homes continued to draw attention, with 22 units selling for at least $300,000.

There were 1,535 new listings of properties in the Buffalo Niagara region in September, up 18 percent from a year ago. And the total number of homes on the market during the month was 4,971, up 12 percent from a year ago.

The increase in inventory is giving more home shoppers a chance of getting a property they want, said Charlene Zoratti, the BNAR's president, in a statement. The region's inventory has increased over the previous year for five straight months, reversing what had been a long-standing trend. Nearly 5,000 homes were for sale in September, a level the region hasn't reached in about two years.

Through September, the number of homes sold in the region was ahead of the same nine-month period in 2003 by less than 1 percent, according to BNAR.


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