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Buffalo Niagara real estate sales jump 17.7% in July

There’s no mistaking the boom in Western New York’s housing market.

Home closings in the Buffalo Niagara region in July rose more than 17 percent from a year earlier, while the average price jumped almost 9 percent.

Meanwhile, the breakneck pace of deal-making continued, with more sales paving the way for a record-setting year.

“Everything we’ve put up we’ve sold,” said Laura A. Giuseppetti, a broker with J. Lawrence Realty, who’s been in the business for 15 years. “It’s one of the busiest summers for me that I can remember for good sales and good prices. I’m happy about it.”

According to new data from the Buffalo Niagara Association of Realtors, closed sales rose 17.7 percent in July, hitting 1,326. That put the year-to-date tally up 6.8 percent, to 5,736.

More significantly, that’s the second-highest tally on record for any month, behind only a one-month burst of 1,379 sales in June 2010, when the federal government was priming the pump with a special housing tax credit. But there’s no similar credit right now.

The significant jump in closings cleared some of the enormous backlog of deals that had been building up all year, as pending sales were up by more than 10 percent for six of the last seven months.

But new deals also surged in July, with pending sales up again, by 15.5 percent, to 1,296. That is the highest number for any July for the past 15 years, and is the third-highest level on record for any month of the year, after May and June.

For the first seven months of the year, pending sales are now up a whopping 14.3 percent, to 7,584. Even more importantly, though, the frenetic pace so far puts the market on track to post 13,000 signed contracts by yearend – easily surpassing prior years going back to at least 2001 that never even exceeded 11,000.

“A lot of business is going on out there and it is all very exciting,” said Susan Lenahan, a broker at M.J. Peterson Corp. “People are buying in to Buffalo again and love what they see. I expect sales to be strong right through Thanksgiving time.”

Brokers say the pace continued through August and even now into September, which is very rare. “Usually at this time of year, we’re dead. I never have a month like that in August,” said Bonnie Clement, an agent at Hunt Real Estate Corp., who generated $4.25 million in sales last month. “It’s pretty surprising because it’s supposed to be quieter, and it’s not. We’re still listing houses.”

Indeed, Peter Scarcello, Hunt’s general manager for Western New York, said the firm recorded its best August “on record” with pending sales 27 percent higher than projected. The firm is expecting an 18 percent increase for September, based on inventory and turnover, he said.

That’s a radical change from early in the year, when frigid temperatures and heavy snow deterred a lot of sales activity. “It was so horrible this year because of the weather,” Clement said. “Starting slowly in March and April, it went crazy and it’s been going ever since. Each month has gotten better. It’s really busy.”

Clement even sold her own condo, after deciding to build a new home. “The market’s very good,” she said. “It’s just a super, super time.”

And it’s not only average-sized homes that are selling. Giuseppetti, for example, was able to land a buyer from South Carolina for a high-end home on Gary Drive in Eden, with several acres of land suitable for their horses. The buyer, who signed a contract for over $500,000, plans to put up fencing and create a pasture on the land, which will become a horse farm.

“It was a surprise,” Giuseppetti said. “It’s a custom-built home. I didn’t really know if I’d sell it or not.”

Similarly, J. Lawrence agent Susan Chaskes put a home in Orchard Park’s Birdsong Estates under contract for over $600,000, to buyers from California, according to Jed Carrol, owner of J. Lawrence.

Seeing such activity, meanwhile, other homeowners are putting their own houses on the market in heavy numbers, driving new listings up another 9.9 percent in July, to 2,030.

That’s the fourth-highest tally for any month since at least 2000, and the top two tallies came in May and June. For the year to date, new listings are up 8.8 percent, to 11,946.

But that hasn’t been enough to keep up with demand, as the total inventory of homes for sale fell 10.1 percent in July to 5,259, the lowest for July since 2004. At the current rate, the supply would last 5.5 months, a 17.9 percent drop from a year ago and below the accepted “ideal” level of six months. “Inventory is a little bit light,” Giuseppetti said. “Buyers didn’t have quite as much to pick from.”

And with fewer homes available, and demand outpacing the supply, the market push is driving prices up. The average price in July rose 8.7 percent to $164,590, while the median – which means half sold for more and half for less – rose 7.9 percent to $137,000. Both prices are all-time record highs.

“We’ve had great sales this summer... It’s just a very, very good summer,” Giuseppetti said. “For me personally, this’ll be a record year by the time this year is over.”

The data from BNAR represents arms-length transactions by the trade group’s members in the eight-county Western New York market, plus some sales in Monroe and Livingston counties.