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Home sales in region declined in May The number of homes on the market increased to 5,405, the highest for the month in 7 years

Home sales in the region dipped in May from a year ago, despite the best monthly total so far this year.

The Buffalo Niagara Association of Realtors reported 1,012 homes sold, a 3 percent drop from May 2006.

Despite the decline, the median sale price increased 3 percent from a year ago, to $103,000, meaning half the homes sold for more and half sold for less than that amount.

The average sale price, which is more likely to be affected by sales of exceptionally high- or low-priced homes, also rose 3 percent, to $126,729. BNAR reported 20 homes sold for $400,000 or more.

The number of homes on the market increased in May to 5,405, the highest total for that month in seven years, according to BNAR data. In April, the inventory dropped slightly from the year before, interrupting a long-term growth trend.

Pat Taylor, BNAR's president, said there are pockets where sales activity is still running strong, despite the overall decline in sales. "[Agents] are seeing multiple offers on well-priced, well-maintained homes," she said.

Sales of higher-end properties, selling for $300,000, have also picked up lately, she added.

The region is in the midst of what is typically its prime months for home sales. Through the first five months of 2007, the BNAR reported home sales were 2 percent ahead of the same period in 2006.

National figures for May are not yet available. But in an updated forecast, the National Association of Realtors predicted U.S. home sales will fluctuate in a "narrow range" and increase toward the end of the year. The NAR expects 2007 national home sales to decline 4.6 percent from 2006.

Phil Aquila of M.J. Peterson Co. said during his trip to a NAR conference in Washington, D.C., he heard about difficulties some other markets are facing, compared to conditions in the Buffalo area.

"What's happening nationally is not happening here," Aquila said. "It's very stable [here]."

Aquila said the Buffalo Niagara housing market tends not to experience tremendous gains or drops some regions do.

"It's a very stable housing economy," he said.

The National Association of Homebuilders reported Monday that the new-housing market remains in a slump. The trade group said its market index, which tracks builders' perceptions of current market conditions and expectations for home sales over the next six months, fell to its lowest reading since February 1991.

The index has been sliding since March as demand for new housing slumped amid a rise in defaults for borrowers with weak, or subprime, credit.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

-mail: mglynn@buffnews.com

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