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Western New York home sales rise in quarter, with best March since 2008

Home sales in Western New York remained strong in March, as deal-making activity and prices both rose solidly, but a shortage of houses for sale continues to plague the market.

Closed sales increased by 3 percent, to 720, from a year earlier, according to new data released by the Buffalo Niagara Association of Realtors.

Sales for the first quarter rose by nearly 20 percent from the same three-month period in 2015. And it’s the highest for the month of March since 2008.

Pending sales – where a contract is signed but not yet closed – rose by 14 percent, to 1,107, in March – the highest level for the month in at least 15 years. That activity has been up for every month except one for the last year, and pending sales for the first quarter are up by 14 percent, to 2,737.

The heavy sales momentum continues to pump up prices, as well. The median sales price in March rose by 9 percent, to $125,000, while the average was up by 7 percent, to $147,656. Both appear to be record levels for the month, as the association’s report goes back to only 2000, when both figures consistently hovered below $100,000.

“As seller and builder confidence increases, we should see more activity in (the second quarter),” the association said in its monthly report. “The second quarter tends to rank as the best time to list a home for sale.”

Meanwhile, though, buyers are still struggling to find enough homes that meet their needs. New listings were up by 13 percent in March, to 1,621, the most for the month in four years. They were up by 7 percent for the first three months of the year, to 3,832.

Even so, between the brisk pace of sales and disappointed sellers in certain areas taking homes off the market, the available inventory fell yet again, down by 10 percent to 3,886. That was the smallest inventory for any month of the year in 12 years, since March 2004. At the current pace, that would cover just 3.8 months worth of sales, well below what is considered a healthy market at six months.

“If inventory stays low, it will be difficult to sustain sales increases in year-over-year comparisons,” the association said. “Demand is present, but an abundance of choice is not, and therein lies the rub.”

The association reports only arms-length transactions by its Realtor members in the eight-county area of Western New York, plus a handful of sales in Monroe and Livingston counties.