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Buffalo Niagara home prices, contracts soar in April

Strong demand from buyers and a tight supply of homes for sale continued to drive the Buffalo Niagara housing market in April, as home prices rose strongly and the number of homes under contract soared.

New data from the Buffalo Niagara Association of Realtors shows that pending sales – those for which a contract has been signed but not finalized – jumped 17.9 percent in April, to 1,154 from 979 last April.

That’s the biggest year-over-year jump since last May, as warmer weather brought out potential buyers in droves. So far this year, pending sales are up 6.6 percent for the first four months, to 3,502.

The Realtors’ association reports only sales handled by its members in the eight counties of Western New York, plus some in Monroe and Livingston counties.

Closings were slower in April, as completed sales rose just 0.7 percent to 680, but closed sales are up 3.8 percent from January through April, to 2,469.

That matches what Hunt Real Estate Corp. is experiencing, said CEO Peter Hunt.

“We’re seeing all the trends that are reflected in that data,” he said. “Even though more new listings are coming in, certain price ranges in certain locations are selling so fast that the overall inventory remains down.”

Results are even stronger at RealtyUSA, where pending sales are up more than twice as much as the association’s figures, closed sales are up by 3 percent, and the dollar volume of transactions is up by 20 percent, reflecting the higher median prices.

“We’re outperforming the market a little bit,” said CEO Merle Whitehead. “It’s a usual spring market. We’re certainly healing from the problems of the past.”

Whitehead said his company’s sales are even stronger in Albany, Binghamton, Elmira, Ithaca and Syracuse, where the overall markets are also better. In Albany in particular, he said, the company is on pace to sell about 600 newly built homes this year, as it gets back up toward the peak of nearly 1,000 in 2006 because of the availability of more land and the growth of the market.

“We’re doing well here in Buffalo, but we’re doing even better in the other markets,” he said.

Home sellers also gained more confidence to list their homes on the market in April. New listings jumped 14 percent to 1,829, in the biggest jump for any month in more than a year. That offset slack activity, or even declines, in previous months, but total new listings for the year are still 0.4 percent lower than a year ago at this time, at 5,639.

However, the surge in new listings wasn’t enough to overcome the combination of heavier demand and failure to replenish the inventory after homes were taken off the market. So the number of homes currently for sale in Western New York fell 18.8 percent from last April to 4,581.

That continues the pace of declines for more than a year, which has seen the total market inventory reach low levels not seen in years. Homes sold in April had spent 82 days on the market, down 4.7 percent from a year ago. At the current sales rate, the inventory would last 5.4 months, a 25 percent drop from 7.2 months a year ago.

In fact, at America’s Choice and its affiliated 2.5% Real Estate Direct agency, more than 90 percent of listings are being sold, most in less than 20 days and many with multiple offers.

“The market is incredibly strong from Lewiston to the Southtowns,” said President Jed Carrol. “The percentage of listed homes that sell is much higher than any year I can remember.”

In turn, that’s lifting prices The median sales price in April – which means half sold for more and half sold for less – was $116,800, up 8.1 percent, while the average rose 1.9 percent to $133,580.

So far this year, the median is up 6.4 percent to $117,000, while the average increased 4.1 percent to $137,163.

Nationally, meanwhile, a report by Santa Ana, Calif.-based real estate data provider CoreLogic found that U.S. home prices soared 12.1 percent in April from a year earlier, the biggest gain since February 2006, as more buyers competed for fewer homes.

The increase, which includes short sales and foreclosed properties, marks the 14th-straight monthly rise in home prices nationwide. Not including those distressed sales, prices rose 11.9 percent from a year ago and 3 percent from March.

CoreLogic said prices rose from the previous April in 48 states. Prices also rose 3.2 percent in April from March, much better than the previous month-to-month gain of 1.9 percent. The firm also projected that prices will rise 12.5 percent in May from the prior year.