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February home sales jump 33 percent over last year; prices up 7.7 percent

What a difference a year makes.

Twelve months ago, unusually heavy snowfall and a deep freeze in Western New York put a temporary chill on a booming housing market, tamping down activity in February 2015 that real estate agents said would have been much higher in a normal year.

Sales still increased a year ago – indeed, they were the highest for the month since 2008. But the increase was only 2 percent, where the sales in every other month last year rose by three to four times as much, if not by double-digit rates.

This year, February’s warmer weather restored the luster of the housing market in a big way.

Closed home sales soared 32.9 percent from February 2015, hitting 682 from 513, according to new data from the Buffalo Niagara Association of Realtors. That’s the second-straight month of double-digit increases from the prior year, on the heels of what was already a record-setting year in 2015.

Prices also rose. The median sales price in February rose 7.7 percent to $119,500, while the average rose 6.5 percent to $141,962.

Overall, for the first two months of 2016, closed transactions are up 29.1 percent to 1,442.

And the primary sales season hasn’t even begun yet. “The heart of the selling season has yet to begin, so we’re still optimistically watching for an increase in activity in the coming months,” BNAR said in its report.

Moreover, while completed deals reflect contracts signed in prior months, even pending sales – in which the sale has been agreed to but not finalized – leaped 17 percent in February, to 855 from 731. That’s also another double-digit increase, after a 12 percent rise in January.

And they’re up 15 percent for the first two months of the year, to 1,637.

As a result, that’s drawing in more new listings, as current homeowners are eager to see what their own properties will fetch, especially with the onset of spring – at least on the calendar. New listings in February rose 23.5 percent to 1,179, although they’re up only 3.5 percent for the first two months, after a disappointing decline in January.

However, that’s not enough to cover the pace of sales and withdrawals of some homes from the listings, so the total inventory of homes for sale dropped 12 percent to 3,858. That’s enough for 3.8 months of sales, down 22.4 percent from a year ago, and down to nearly half the six-month level that is considered healthy for a housing market.

BNAR reports arms-length transactions from its Realtor members in the eight-county area of Western New York, plus a few sales from Monroe and Livingston counties.