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Home sales in Buffalo Niagara fell 7 percent in March from a year ago, while the median sale price increased.

A total of 955 homes were sold during the month, according to the Buffalo Niagara Association of Realtors.

The median sale price -- meaning half of the homes sold for more, and half sold for less -- was $91,000, up 4 percent from March 2004. The average sale price of $111,818 was virtually unchanged from each of the past two years.

While the median sale price is up, it remains low by national standards. The National Association of Realtors' survey for 2004 said Western New York's median sale price was the lowest among major metro areas.

John Leonardi, executive vice president of the BNAR, said he believed March's weather might have kept some prospective homebuyers from actively looking, contributing to lower sales.

While monthly sales fell, the region's inventory rose. The BNAR reported 4,302 homes on the market in March, up 14 percent. The number of homes for sale has risen on a year-over-year basis each month since May 2004.

But the availability of homes in some price segments remains low, Leonardi said.

The number of higher-priced homes sold, for $250,000 or more, was down 6 percent from March 2004. There was a significant drop-off at the highest end: only two homes sold for $500,000 or more, compared to 12 a year ago.

Meanwhile, of the 955 homes that were bought, 44 percent of them sold after being on the market for 30 days or less, according to BNAR data. "I'm seeing houses sell faster," Leonardi said.

Through the first three months of 2005, home sales in the region are down 3 percent from the same period a year earlier. That reflects the NAR's revised national forecast for all of 2005, which calls for a 2.4 percent drop in existing-home sales.

Historically, April brings an upswing in buying. In each of the past four years, April has been the No. 1 or No. 2 month for home sales in the region.


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