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Homes cost about a third less in Western New York than the national average, and mortgage rates are lower, too. But property taxes that are two-thirds higher than the national average eat up a big chunk of that savings, new census data shows.

New statistics released Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau found that homeowners in Western New York paid 34 percent less than the national average to buy their homes and 17 percent less for mortgages than those around the country.

But they also paid 66 percent more for real estate taxes, according to the 2011 American Housing Survey profile for the Buffalo-Niagara Falls metropolitan area.

Homeowners locally paid a median price of $72,500 for their homes, compared with a national median of $110,000. The national figure is up 2.3 percent from the 2009 survey.

The difference for new homes that were freshly built in the last four years was even starker, with Western New Yorkers paying $130,000, which is 45 percent less than the $235,000 median nationwide – itself down 2.1 percent from the 2009 survey.

The study also found that Western New Yorkers carried less debt on their homes.

According to the report, 59 percent of owner-occupied homes – 183,100 of 311,200 – in the Buffalo Niagara region had a regular mortgage or home equity loan on them, while 15 percent had a refinanced primary mortgage. Nationally, those rates were 65.4 percent and 23.4 percent, respectively.

With home prices cheaper than the national median, the loan payments locally were lower, too. Homeowners locally had median monthly mortgage payments of $845 in 2011, much lower than $1,015 nationally. The median interest rate locally was 5.4 percent. About 70 percent were paying between 5 percent and 19 percent of their monthly income.

The taxes, however, reduced the gap. Homeowners in Buffalo Niagara paid a median of $250 per month for real estate taxes, higher than the national median of $151.

They also paid median amounts of $91 per month for electricity and $45 for property insurance. That’s better than the national monthly medians of $121 and $58, respectively. Natural gas costs locally were a median $101 per month, while water costs were a median $23 per month.

“The last five years remind us how central housing is to each of us personally, to the fiscal health of our cities and counties, and the national economy,” said Kurt Usowski, deputy assistant secretary for economic affairs at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The data also showed that:

• The median year in which the householder had moved into their home was 1997.

• There were 81,800 households with children under age 18 and 229,400 without.

• The median household income was $65,000. Wages and salaries were the majority of income for 182,500 families or primary individuals in a household, while 107,900 received Social Security or Railroad Retirement benefits, and 85,900 received retirement or survivor pensions.

• About 15 percent of survey respondents locally had moved within the prior year from within the United States. Of those, most are now in a house and did not consider apartments. And 40 percent had found their current home by word of mouth.

• The median year when the primary mortgage on a home was originated was 2005, while the median number of years remaining was 18, with a median outstanding principal balance of $72,191, or a median 64 percent of the home’s value.

• Buffalo Niagara homes are typically older. The median year in which occupied homes were built locally was 1953, versus 1974 nationally.

• About 166,000 homes locally have three bedrooms, while 126,900 have at least two bathrooms. The survey also noted that 272,100 of the homes have a porch, deck, balcony or patio, 121,600 have a usable fireplace, 203,300 have a separate dining room and 109,300 have at least two living or recreation rooms. The median square footage locally was 1,785.

• Natural gas is more dominant as the source of heat here than in the rest of the country. Locally, 87 percent of occupied homes used piped gas, while 7.8 percent had electric heating. Nationally, 50.4 percent of homes used piped gas, while 35.3 percent used electricity.

• Most Western New Yorkers don’t rely on central air conditioning. The survey showed that 44.4 percent of owner-occupied homes in the Buffalo Niagara area had central air, compared with 72.5 percent nationwide.

• Buffalo-area homeowners are more cognizant and cautious about carbon monoxide, with 85 percent of owner-occupied homes here having working detectors, versus 46.3 percent nationally.

email: jepstein@buffnews.com