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Home sales for region rise by 3.7% to 7-year high

Home sales rose in April to their highest level for the first full month of spring in seven years, while the pool of available homes fell to its lowest in a decade, as the Western New York housing market picked up steam with warmer weather.

Closed sales increased by 3.7 percent in that month – to 736, from 710 – marking the most completed transactions in April since 2008, and the most for any month since December, according to new data from the Buffalo Niagara Association of Realtors.

The closing process takes at least 60 days, if not 90, so that reflects initial homebuying activity from at least two to three months earlier, in the midst of winter. That’s an indication that, aside from the most frigid and snowy days, the weather didn’t put a damper on house-shopping. Indeed, so far this year, completed deals are up by 4.5 percent, to 2,536, for the first four months of 2015.

Moreover, pending sales – where deals have been signed but not sealed – leaped by 16.8 percent, to 1,223. That’s the second-highest tally for any month of the year since at least 2001, behind only the 1,281 pending deals in April 2010. And it’s the eighth straight month of year-over-year gains. For the year to date, pending deals are up by 11.8 percent, to 3,653.

“We’re in the prime spring market,” said Louis Vinci, an agent at RealtyUSA and former president of the association. “Our office had a record-breaking month. Many homes sold with multiple offers.”

As a result, prices are rising, as well. The median sales price for April – half sold for more, half for less – was $122,500, up by 4.7 percent from a year earlier. That appears to be a record for April in the Buffalo Niagara region, at least since 1999, and prices have risen consistently and steadily since then, when the median hovered at about the $80,000 level. Similarly, the average price rose by 4 percent, to $148,806 – the highest for April in at least 15 years. Both the median and average in April were also the highest for any month since last October.

That pace of sales activity is encouraging more homeowners to list their own properties for sale to capitalize on the frenzy. New listings in April rose by 10.2 percent, to 1,975, and were up by 6.2 percent for the first four months, to 5,551. That’s the most homes added to the market for April since at least 2000, and the sixth-highest for any month in those 15 years.

But it’s not enough to maintain the inventory, which once again dropped in April, this time by 9.9 percent, to 4,267. It’s the lowest level for April since 2004 – the last time the tally of available homes for sale hovered so low for an extended period. At that rate, there are only enough homes available to satisfy buyers for 4.7 months, a 14.5 percent drop from a year ago.

“What I’m seeing is a very low inventory,” said Annabelle Aquilina, a broker at Hunt Real Estate Corp. “So the houses that are priced well, in good condition, and that hit the market right are flying off the shelf.”