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Buffalo Niagara home sales steady in January

The housing market in the Buffalo Niagara region held steady in January, compared to a year ago.

The number of existing homes that were sold during the month inched lower by less than 1 percent, while the median sale price dipped by just under 3 percent, according to new data from the Buffalo Niagara Association of Realtors.

The sales figures show that the local housing market changed little during January – historically one of the slowest months for home buying and selling in the Buffalo Niagara region.

But the statistics also showed signs that the traditional spring warmup in the local housing market is in the works. Pending home sales – agreements to purchase a home that have not yet closed – jumped by 16 percent during January. And new listings of homes that are just being put up for sale jumped by 18 percent from a year ago.

“There’s a little bit of pent-up demand,” said John Leonardi, the CEO of the Buffalo Niagara Association of Realtors, which compiles the home sale data.

The number of home sales that closed during January was virtually unchanged, with 594 homes changing hands compared with 590 during January 2014. January and February are traditionally the slowest months for home sales in the Buffalo Niagara region, and the pace of sales during January was in line with the less than 1 percent dip in sales throughout all of 2014 and 2 percent stronger than the average for January over the last 16 years.

“Our market is very cyclical,” Leonardi said. “The spring market typically is very hot. The summer has been strong for the last three years.”

Home prices, which were flat during 2014, continued to show signs of softness. The median sale price of the homes that sold during January, meaning that half sold for more and half sold for less, slipped by slightly less than 3 percent to $118,700 from $122,000 in January 2014.

Average sale prices, which generally are considered to be a less reliable indicator of the local housing market because they can be skewed by the sale of a handful of very expensive or very low-priced homes, fell by 4 percent to $142,989 from $148,965.

Leonardi said the job market, which has seen unemployment rates drop but wage growth remain sluggish, could be putting a damper on home prices.

After a mild start, temperatures turned sharply lower during the second half of January and continued throughout February. “Weather has a lot to do with January’s numbers,” said Joseph Rivellino, the president of Rivellino Realtors in Warsaw and the real estate group’s president.

There were some bright spots in the housing market, though. The supply of homes for sale continues to shrink, with just a 4.7-month supply of homes on the market – below the 6-month level that is considered to be the tipping point between a buyer’s and seller’s market. And the homes that sold during January were on the market for an average of 69 days, down from 75 days in January 2014 and the fastest sales pace for any January in at least five years.

Housing inventories tightened a bit in January because home sales held relatively steady, while the number of homes that were listed for sale dropped by 7 percent to 4,239 from 4,539 in January 2014. But homeowners also were gearing up for the spring selling season, with new listings jumping by 18 percent to 1,184 from 1,006 in January 2014.

“The listings are up, which is good,” Leonardi said. “The pending sales are off the charts, which translates into higher numbers of closed sales in 60 to 90 days.”