Buffalo Niagara's homebuilding market is showing signs of improvement, according to a monthly survey that tracks metro areas' progress.
Buffalo Niagara was added to the December edition of a national list of metro areas that have shown gains, for at least six straight months, from their respective low points in three areas: housing permits, employment and house prices.
A total of 201 metro areas, including five from New York State, made the December list, which is called the National Association of Home Builders/First American Improving Markets Index. Meanwhile, eight other metro areas from around the country, including Syracuse, were dropped from the list.
Buffalo Niagara's housing permits have grown 1.5 percent from the region's "trough" in September 2011, according to the index. Its home prices were up 5.2 percent from their January 2010 trough, and its employment was up 1.4 percent from its trough in December 2009.
The National Association of Homebuilders says with a net gain of 76 metro areas, the list now represents more than half of the country's metro areas. The results "should help encourage consumers who may have been on the fence about a home purchase that a housing recovery is now firmly underway," said Kurt Pfotenhauer, vice chairman of First American Title Co., which partners on the index, in a statement.
Buffalo Niagara returned to the "improving markets" list after appearing on it in April and May but dropped off in June. John Manns, vice president of sales and marketing for local homebuilder Marrano/Marc Equity, said he has seen a strong upswing in customer activity at Marrano, thanks in part to mild weather in the past three months.
Manns says the new construction ranges from townhouses to single-family homes to patio homes in a number of Western New York communities. "We're going to be putting some people to work this winter, instead of laying them off," he said.
There have been other signs of improvement in the homebuilding market locally. In August, the Buffalo Niagara Builders Association revived its Horizons Home Show after taking a year off.
Barry Rutenberg, the NAHB's chairman, said the large number of new metro areas added to the list is an important sign of stability in the industry. "The main thing that's limiting the progress we're seeing right now is the difficulty that potential buyers continue to experience with regard to overly tight mortgage qualifying standards," he said.