Despite a slightly disappointing end in the final month, 2013 was the best year for Western New York’s real estate market since before the Great Recession.
The number of completed deals was the third-highest tally since at least 2001. Only 2006 and 2007 had more deals.
Both average and median home prices set records for the year, as heavy demand and short supply combined to drive a market characterized all year by competitive bidders, multiple offers and deals for well above the asking price.
“We had our best year since the recession,” said Isabel Robitaille, president and CEO of Robitaille Real Estate in Williamsville. “Things are looking up for Buffalo.”
A bitter cold and snowy start to the winter season didn’t seem to stop local home buyers from shopping and signing in December, although it may have slowed down the completion of deals that were near closing.
For the first time all year, closed home sales fell in December in Western New York, as the harsh weather seemed to hinder some activity. Completed transactions fell 2.5 percent to 790 from 810 in December 2012, the lowest for the month in two years and the lowest for any month since last April, according to figures from the Buffalo Niagara Association of Realtors. The association’s figures include only those transactions handled by its members.
However, closed deals for all of 2013 rose 9.6 percent to 10,486. That is 19 percent higher than the tally in 2011, and it’s the highest level since 2007.
Pending sales, those where a deal is signed but not yet completed, rose 4.8 percent in December to 525 and were up 6.5 percent all year to 10,517. That is the highest for the month in at least three years.
At RealtyUSA, the biggest real estate brokerage in the area and one of the largest in the state, sales volume rose 13 percent for the year, to $3.26 billion, while the number of “transaction sides” – where the firm represents the buyer, the seller or possibly both – rose 7 percent to 21,000.
The last time it was that high was in the peak year of 2006, when the firm handled $3.5 billion in volume and 24,000 transactions. “We’re almost back to where we were at the peak,” said CEO Merle Whitehead.
Hunt Real Estate Corp., the No. 2 firm in Western New York, recorded even better figures for the year, with closed business up 22.7 percent over 2012, said Peter Scarcello, general manager for the Buffalo Niagara Region. December closings alone were up 32.2 percent, while pending deals were up 41 percent.
“Clearly the market has turned for the better, and we believe it will remain strong going forward,” Scarcello said. “January and February have been a challenge due to weather conditions, and we are anticipating an influx of buyers and sellers into the marketplace.”
In fact, homeowners who want to sell are not sitting out the winter waiting for the warmer spring, either. New listings added to the market rose 4.3 percent in December, to 660, and were up 3.6 percent all year, to 16,967. That is the highest full-year gain in at least two years.
Even so, in a sign of just how busy the market has been, the total inventory of homes available for sale in December still fell by 11.3 percent to 4,330, as homes sold in December had only stayed on the market for an average of 69 days. The average length on the market all year was 65 days.
Prices were mixed. The median sales price, which means half sold for more and half for less, fell 4.1 percent to $118,860, while the average price rose 1.6 percent to $144,355. That’s an indication that more higher-priced homes changed hands, inflating the average.
Still, while it was the lowest median price since April, it was just under the peak for all of 2009, showing the long-term trend continues to rise.
Moreover, for the full year, the median price was up 2.5 percent to $124,000, while the average rose 2.8 percent to $147,924. Both are the highest in over 12 years and possibly new records for the region.