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January home sales fall from a year ago Count of new listings rose from December

A chilly wind blew through the local housing market in January, with home sales volume falling 17 percent from the previous year.

The total number of homes sold last month was 465, down from January 2008's 563, according to the Buffalo Niagara Association of Realtors. That marks the lowest monthly sales total since 1995.

The monthly snapshot of home sales also saw dips in average and median prices, new listings and pending sales.

In January, the average sale price was $117,953, down 4 percent from $122,246 a year earlier. The median price was $96,790, off from last January's $98,820.

Pending sales fell a whopping 24 percent, from 664 to 503, and the count of new listings dropped 20 percent, from 1,482 to 1,190.

The total value of homes sold this January was $54.8 million, off 21 percent from $69.1 million in sales a year earlier.

"When you look at the year-over-year numbers, it's disappointing, but relatively speaking the Buffalo area is still holding its own," said BNAR Executive Director John Leonardi.

He noted sales totals in Syracuse and Rochester are down 44 percent and 36 percent, respectively.

"The economic world has changed so much in the past 12 months it makes more sense to compare the numbers month-to-month. That comparison is much more favorable," Leonardi added.

The realty group executive pointed to a slight uptick in January's median home sales price, from $96,000 in December to $96,790. The count of new listings rose from 911 to 1,190 in the month-to-month comparison.

He also noted that homes selling for between $100,000 and $139,000 comprised the large group of sales, with 155 houses closing from $250,000 or more.

"Sales have not come to a standstill. People are still buying in the middle to high end," Leonardi said.

Local realtors are hoping the arrival of spring will also thaw out the housing market. The March through May period is a critical time for the residential real estate market as home sellers and home buyers make decisions ahead of the prime summer moving season.

"Spring will tell us a lot more about the health of the market," Leonardi said.

To aid that cause the realtors group will launch a new marketing campaign, starting with a presence at the Buffalo Home & Garden Show, which runs from Feb. 28 to March 8 at the Buffalo Convention Center.

"We're going to have a first-ever 'Realtor Night' on March 5 where people can talk with a realtor and find out more about buying and selling climate and financing opportunities," he said.

Leonardi said in addition to low mortgage interest rates, another buying perk is a $7,500 grant for first-time homebuyers that's included in the federal economic stimulus plan. Unlike the current new homeowner inducement, it will not require repayment.

e-mail: slinstedt@buffnews.com

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