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The rise of the million-dollar buyers

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Buffalo Next

Million-dollar mania

With home sale prices soaring across the country, million-dollar home sales are becoming much more common in many places.

Not so much in Western New York yet, although they have picked up here as well.

According to a report by Inspection Support Network, the Buffalo Niagara region had the second fewest home sales topping $1 million in 2020 out of all large U.S. cities, accounting for just 0.19% of all deals. That's just one of every 500 sales in Western New York.

for sale sign (copy)

Not many homes sell for more than $1 million in the Buffalo Niagara region.

By comparison, across the entire country, 4.76% of all transactions involved homes selling for more than $1 million. And statewide – which includes the pricey New York City and Long Island markets where million-dollar homes are a dime a dozen – it's 9.7%, which means one of every 10 homes is a million-dollar deal.

To be sure, that's not surprising, considering the more affordable nature of housing in Western New York. It's well-known that you don't need to be a millionaire to buy a nice, big house here - a selling point that is often touted about the region.

But other statistics from the report showed surprising similarities and differences. For example:

  • The median value of the homes that sold above the magic $1 million threshold locally was $1.28 million, only $75,000 lower than the national median of $1.355 million. That indicates that most million-dollar homes are still on the lower end of the range, not the mega multi-million-dollar properties that hit the headlines.
  • Million-dollar buyers in Western New York had a median income of $528,500 – significantly more than the $330,000 median across the country. That means it's primarily the wealthy that are buying such houses here, while even upper-middle class households are in that market in many other areas - likely because prices in general are much higher in other cities so almost everyone is paying up.
  • The median down-payment for homes of more than $1 million is $275,000 in Buffalo, but $410,000 nationwide. That means local buyers aren't digging as deeply at the start in order to get their million-dollar house or that buyers elsewhere have accumulated more equity in the home they are selling to move up.

The study used data filed with bank regulators under the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act, and examined conventional home purchase loans in 348 metro areas with at least 100,000 residents. Buffalo was tied with Rochester at the bottom of the ranking for large cities, but Rochester's median home price and median income were both lower.

California is costly

Not surprisingly, more than one in five California homes sold for over $1 million, as the top four cities for million-dollar homes are all located in the Golden State. In fact, in the San Jose area - which led the nation - nearly two of every three houses exceeds $1 million.

Hawaii and Massachusetts were next among states, at 17.51% and 10.18% of all homes exceeding that mark, followed by New York. By contrast, 16 states had less than 1% of homes selling at that level.

Median prices generally have been on a steady and accelerating climb for over 60 years, but the rate of increase has picked up in recent years, especially since early 2020 and the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. The national median topped $400,000 for the first time in 2021, while Buffalo's median exceeded $200,000 for the first time. Buffalo also pierced the $2 million ceiling for individual home sales earlier this year.

On the other side of things, the portion of homes selling for less than $300,000 – including the first-time homebuyer market – fell from 52% in 2018 to 46% in 2020. That means it's getting more difficult for the lower-end buyers to find a house.

– Jonathan D. Epstein

Want to know more? Three stories to catch you up:

Welcome to Buffalo Next. This newsletter from The Buffalo News will bring you the latest coverage on the changing Buffalo Niagara economy – from real estate to health care to startups. Read more at


Brothers-of-Mercy-Expansion-Clarence (copy)

This is an aerial view of the Brothers of Mercy Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Clarence. (Photo courtesy of the Brothers of Mercy)

It's the BOM. Brothers of Mercy, the nonprofit senior housing organization that operates a 92-acre senior-living and continuing-care community in Clarence, is planning a partial renovation of the former Sacred Heart Home building at 4520 Ransom Road. The project would introduce a mobile primary care office, a research office for the UB Aging Resilience Center and a pharmacy to 5,645 square feet on the first floor of the brick building's north wing, next to a chimney tower.

Brothers of Mercy Center

A rendering of the proposed new Brothers of Mercy Center at its Clarence campus, with a doctors' office, a research office and a pharmacy in part of the former Sacred Heart Home building.

Golf carts and pools. The Hamburg Planning Board on May 4, during its work session prior to the formal meeting on May 4, will review a proposal and special-use permit request from Golf Carts Unlimited to build a 2,000-square-foot building, an addition to its existing building, and a roof extension for covered parking at 2330 Lakeview Road. The panel will also consider Colley's Pools' request for "sketch plan direction" for its proposal to build a new 6,000-square-foot warehouse at 4953 Camp Road.

Rising costs. The Hamburg Industrial Development Agency on April 20 authorized an increase in a previously approved mixed-use infill project at 290 Lake Street in the Village of Hamburg, at the corner of Church Street, because of rising construction costs. The project by developers Joseph Battin, Christian Gorino and Paul Lamparelli entails construction of a 19,260-square-foot apartment building on the site of a Schmidt's Collision and Glass building, which collapsed under the weight of snow after the November 2014 storm. The new three-story building will consist of 10 market-rate units with one or two bedrooms in each, totaling 12,840 square feet, plus another 6,420 square feet of "spec" office or retail space. The project cost rose from $3.16 million when originally approved to $4.52 million. Under the new terms, the developer will now receive $136,524 in sales tax breaks, $267,517 in property tax abatements and $23,250 in mortgage recording tax relief.


Catch up on news tied to Buffalo Niagara's economy:

A small Airbnb-style, eight-room boutique hotel is being planned for Lancaster, near Como Lake Park. The $2.8 million project would consist of an 18,000-square-foot, two-story mixed-use building, using a vacant lot that used to be home to Desiderio's and then Brother's restaurants.

A new $2.5 million, four-story self-storage facility with 164 storage rental units is being proposed for 321 Commerce Drive in Amherst by landscape contractors Eric Bogart and Michael Sinatra.

M&T Bank is about halfway to hiring 1,000 technologists in the Buffalo area, an ambitious goal set three years ago, just before making Seneca One tower the place where the bank would establish its "tech hub."

Dr. Todd Shatkin and Daemen University are seeking nearly $394,000 in sales tax breaks for the $7.85 million project to bring a new dental school and physical rehabilitation center to the Amherst campus.

About a month after a deal was announced and weeks after the state approved a budget that included funding for it, the Erie County Legislature will finally begin discussions on the Buffalo Bills stadium deal this week.

Empire State Development is prioritizing efforts to work with local regions in capturing new investments and job opportunities by strengthening their workforce skills and helping communities assemble more shovel-ready land for new projects.

Fattey Beer Co. will open in three more locations, including one in Kenmore and additional stores in the Neighborhood of Play by the Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester and in Westerville, Ohio, near Columbus. There are five of the craft-beer taproom and beer store hybrids in the area.

LCB Capital is hoping to bring a new five-story building with 44 market-rate apartments to Delaware Avenue in Allentown. The Kenmore-headquartered real estate company already owns eight residential and commercial properties in Buffalo and Kenmore.

For the first time in more than a decade, mortgage rates have reached 5% – up from 3.1% in December – driving up the cost of buying a home, which could lead to a slowdown in sales and more modest increases in home prices, according to M&T Bank's chief financial officer.

Buffalo Next reporters Jonathan D. Epstein, Jon Harris, Natalie Brophy, Janet Gramza and Mike Petro contributed to this roundup.


Five reads from Buffalo Next:

1. A new statewide energy plan being debated would gradually phase out the use of natural gas, in favor of electricity, resulting in big changes for how Western New Yorkers heat their home and operate their appliances.

2. Three local growers are among the 52 granted the first licenses to cultivate adult-use recreational marijuana in the state. They include The Releaf Market in Jamestown, Yager Farms in Eden and Wheatfield Gardens in Wheatfield.

3. Some companies, such as Independent Health and Freed Maxick, are embracing "hoteling," where remote employees reserve a workstation for the days when they come into the office to do their jobs, rather than having a dedicated desk of their own.

4. Building a new Buffalo Bills stadium is expected to create 10,000 local jobs for construction workers, but some contractors are feeling left out due to the stadium pact including plans for a project labor agreement that requires contractors to pay prevailing wages.

5. The remarkable rebirth of Bethlehem Steel's home: With a smattering of new developments, and more on the way, the shuttered Bethlehem Steel complex is becoming a sign of revival.

The Buffalo Next team gives you the big picture on the region’s economic revitalization. Reach Real Estate & Development reporter Jonathan D. Epstein at (716) 849-4478 or email him at

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