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The million-dollar homes of Erie County

Home prices have been steadily climbing in the Buffalo area, and million-dollar sale is a benchmark  broken more frequently the past couple years.

Four enormous homes recently sold above the $1 million mark.

Million-dollar home purchases are still rare, with only 13 in Erie County in last year and 11 so far this year. As such, they invariably grab attention as a sign of wealth in the region.

"The higher-end market is really here," said Michelle Winer, associate broker at Hunt Real Estate Corp.'s Williamsville/Clarence office. "There are a good amount of buyers looking in the higher-price ranges."

The sales also provide a glimpse into the largely quiet world of some of the area's business leaders, as well as its sports figures from the Buffalo Bills and Sabres.

And it's been picking up in recent years. Each of the past three years has seen at least 11 such deals. There were eight each in 2013 and 2014, and as few as two in 2011.

They also are scattered in the city and the suburbs, with concentrations in Buffalo and Clarence. A third of the single family homes that sold for $1 million or more in the last decade were in Buffalo; 28 percent were in Clarence and 12 percent were in Amherst, with the rest in other towns.

The high-end home sales so far this year were topped by the $2.5 million sale of a 13,200-square-foot mansion on 5.1 acres in the Town of Aurora by former Buffalo Bills defensive end Mario Williams.

While several transactions this year have involved professional sports figures, all four of the newest buyers are business owners.

"There's really a high demand for luxury houses in the city right now," said Kristan Andersen, vice president at Gurney Becker & Bourne.  "People are not afraid to invest in these beautiful houses in the city, even if they need work. There's a real confidence in what's happening in the city and Western New York."

The recent sales, according to property records, include:

* An 8,071-square-foot English Tudor-style mansion on 10.3 acres on Donnington Road in Clarence sold in late October for $1.8 million to Mark V. Baran, owner of Visual Software LLC in East Amherst. The property, sold by Xiaoping Shui, owner of Mechanical Tech International, and Ping Jin, boasts landscaped gardens, a stocked pond with a quarry stone water feature, a tennis court, a stone patio and a pine-wood guest house, according to marketing information on Zillow.

* A five-bedroom, 7,325-square-foot house on Megan Rose Way in East Amherst sold last month for $1.36 million to Igor Finkelshtein, co-owner and operator of Buffalo Transportation Inc. The house was listed for $1.495 million by seller Michele L. Zimmer, co-owner of the Woodhouse Day Spa in Williamsville, according to the real estate listing. Built in 2006, the home features a two-story foyer with a "sweeping staircase," a family room with a "coffered ceiling" and gas fireplace, and a formal dining room with hardwood flooring, crown molding and a butler's pantry, the listing said.

* A 9,297-square-foot house with five bedrooms on Rockhaven Drive in Clarence sold in late September for $1.25 million to Amit Ahuja, a local Tim Hortons franchise operator. The house was sold by Audrey Oswell,  former chief operating officer of Seneca Gaming Corp.,  and her husband, Marc. The five-bedroom house features a first-floor guest suite, a master suite, four fireplaces, a finished daylight basement and a climate-controlled wine cellar, according to the real estate listing.

* A 5,391-square-foot Georgian Colonial home with eight bedrooms on Lincoln Parkway in Buffalo was purchased last week for $1.165 million by Christopher Wilk and Christine Standish from Albany. Wilk owns the Albany Management Institute, while Standish is president of the Standish Family Foundation and a director of Albany International Corp. The seller, Peter J. Filocamo, is a local anesthesiologist. The red-brick home sits on 0.31 acres, with a landscaped backyard, an in-ground pool, new kitchen and bathrooms and a third-floor media room.

Additionally, Winer said she also knows of a Florida business owner who is originally from Buffalo and is buying a million-dollar-plus home in Orchard Park so he can live half the year here and half in the Sunshine State. That deal hasn't closed yet.

And she has a listing in Buffalo for more than $1 million that has had seven showings. "Every single buyer that's come through it has been a business executive or owns their own business," Winer said.

The Rushing Waters estate on Gypsy Lane in the Town of Aurora sold for $1.4 million this summer.

Winer said she has seen more wealthy buyers recently than in the past.

"I just wish there was more inventory out there, because more of them could come out and start investing in some of these higher-end homes," said Winer, noting that at those prices, buyers know what they want and aren't willing to settle for less.

"They're very particular about what they want to spend their money on," she said. "They're just waiting for the right properties to make those home purchases and decisions."

While none of the buyers or sellers involved in the four recent house sales responded to requests for comment, property records and real estate listings provided details of the transactions.

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