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Area home sales increase 16.9% in January A bumper crop of homes awaited buyers, with 1,414 new residences hitting the market

Home sales in the Buffalo Niagara region are starting 2006 with a bang.

The Buffalo Niagara Association of Realtors reports 742 residences were sold last month, the highest number for the month of January in over a decade. The sales represented a 16.9 percent increase over January 2005, with 635 homes were sold.

The revved up market also shows dramatic movement from December, with a 42.4 percent leap from the 521 homes sold in the final month of the 2005.

Buyers had a bumper crop of homes to check out last month, with 1,414 residences hitting the market, up 29.3 percent in a year over year comparison. In January 2005, 1,094 homes had "For Sale" signs on them.

Total residential listings in January stood at 4,629, up 10.5 percent from 4,186 in the prior year. That is down slightly from the total number of area homes for sale in December, when 4,664 homes were available.

Miriam Treger, president of the realtor group, said it's a strong market for buyers and sellers.

"Inventory is up which means people have a lot of choices in a lot of price ranges," Treger said. "It's a more comfortable market so buyers don't have to jump so quickly, but there's not a glut of homes, so sellers are fine, too. We're still seeing multiple offers."

The median residential sales price, which means half sold for more and half for less, climbed 4.9 percent last month, from $90,000 in January 2005 to $94,375 last month. The average home price went up 3 percent, from $113,495 to $116,885.

On the upper end of the sales scale, there were eight residences which sold for more than $500,000. At the other end of the market, 96 home transactions were priced at less than $30,000.

Carole Holcberg, president of Buffalo-based Holcberg Limited Real Estate, said she feels "strong momentum" at the start of 2006.

"It was not a typical January where we usually see sellers hang back and wait until spring. It felt more like a March or April," Holcberg said, crediting the unusually warm winter weather, in part, for driving the extra activity.

She also noted a higher than normal volume of home shoppers at open houses in the past month, especially for houses in the $150,000 to $350,000 range.

"I see no indications of a slowdown. I think we're seeing the start of what could be a record spring and summer sales season and a really strong year," the realtor added.

Meanwhile, the National Association of Realtors released data this week that shows a record 72 metropolitan areas had double-digit gains in sales prices for existing homes in the final three months of 2005 when compared with the same period a year earlier.

Overall, the Buffalo Niagara region's median sale price of $99,800 during the fourth quarter was the 10th lowest among the 145 metropolitan areas that were surveyed and less than half of the national median. The 5.2 percent jump in the region's median sale price also was less than half of the 13.6 percent increase nationally.

The previous record, in the fall of 2004, was 69 cities with double-digit price increases for existing homes.

Locally, 2005 was a strong year overall, with the highest volume of sales in 10 years. However, the pace cooled in December with a 5 percent dip to finish out the calendar year.


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