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Soaring home sales in Western New York set stage for record year

Home sales for the first 11 months of 2015 set the stage for a record year.

In November, Western New York’s housing market surged, with closings, signed contracts and new listings up by more than 25 percent each, according to data released by the Buffalo Niagara Association of Realtors this week.

Prices rose, too, with the average up by more than 10 percent.

“The market has been nuts,” said Dana M. David, a real estate agent with RealtyUSA, who listed a Tonawanda home two weeks before Christmas, and still netted six offers. “The time of year is not affecting home sales as much as people think.”

Closed sales leaped by 28.9 percent to 911, from 707, in November 2014, marking the highest level for that month since at least 2000. That even exceeded the peak year of 2007, when 902 homes changed hands in November.

And it pushed the total for the first 11 months of the year up 10 percent to 10,418, according to figures from the Buffalo Niagara Association of Realtors. That’s within striking distance of the 2007 record of 11,138 closings, and the current pace would position the market to exceed that by more than 200 homes.

Pending sales, where a contract has been signed but not wrapped up, rose by 25 percent to 794, from 635. That’s also the highest level for the month in at least 15 years, and is nearly double the weakest level, of 425 signed contracts in 2009.

Moreover, for the year to date, pending sales were up by 14.2 percent, to 11,476. That’s already a record for the region, besting the previous record by 700 deals, with the figures for December yet to be tallied.

“We will see a number of milestones hit in Western New York for 2015, and we expect to see another strong year in 2016,” said Charles F. Hunt, general manager for Hunt Real Estate Corp., where new written business last year rose by 15 percent from 2014 in the number of homes and by 18 percent in the dollar volume.

Real estate agents had been talking all year long about the heavy homebuying activity in many parts of the city and suburbs, driven by continued record-low interest rates, job and income growth, economic development and construction activity, and buoyed community pride, particularly in city living. Competition for homes is intense in certain neighborhoods and villages.

That’s not to say it’s universal in every area, and some houses still linger for weeks or months without a deal, or sell for less than expected or desired. But the positive trends are borne out by the data released each month by the Realtors association.

“The 2015 market was an excellent year for buyers and sellers. Every category was positive and that bodes well for the consumer,” said John B. Leonardi, CEO of the association. “Consumers are displaying a very confident mindset in owning real property in our marketplace.”

New listings on the market jumped by 27.1 percent in November, to 1,066 – the most for the month since 2007. And even with that surge, that’s the second-lowest level of new listings for all of 2015.

For the first 11 months of the year, new listings were up by 9.1 percent, to 17,739. That already was the fourth-highest level on record for an entire year, with another month still to be counted. At the current rate, new listings will have exceeded the high mark by more than 500 homes.

The inventory of homes for purchase in November dropped by 11.1 percent, to 4,717 – the lowest for the month since 2004 – as the pace of deals continued to overcome the growth in options for buyers. At the current rate, there are enough homes on the market to last 4.7 months, down by 21.7 percent from the six-month level of a year earlier, which is considered a stable market. “We still have an extreme shortage of inventory in the city, which is holding back many potential buyers who want to experience a walkable community with vibrant city living,” said Bret D. Llewellyn, broker and manager of RealtyUSA’s Buffalo metro office, where sales volume also rose by 15 percent from 2014 to 2015. “We are seeing young millennials and suburban downsizers wanting what the city has to offer.”

Meanwhile, the shortage of available homes and the frenetic pace of activity, in which multiple bids on a property are common in some areas, continued to drive prices up. The median sales price for November rose by 7.6 percent, to $125,950, while the average price increased by 10.8 percent, to $154,578 – both surpassing the records set in 2012. The full-year average and median of $149,844 and $125,950, through November, also were records.

“We are really in a fabulous market,” said Hunt Real Estate Corp. associate broker Annabelle A. Aquilina, who sold four listings in three weeks during the normally slow final two months of the year. In one case, she had more than 90 people come through an open house, with the property selling in three days with three offers on the table. “We still have low inventory, interest rates are going up a little but are still low, and there are lots of buyers looking. That spells a great market going into 2016.”

The Realtors association tracks arm’s-length sales by its members in the eight-county region of Western New York, along with some transactions in Monroe and Livingston counties.