Homes listed for sale in Western New York flew off the shelf in late summer, as the hot-and-heavy real estate market in Western New York largely maintained the pace it set in recent months.
Houses available for purchase stayed on the market for an average of just 49 days in August, according to new figures from the Buffalo Niagara Association of Realtors.
That’s almost 20 percent faster than homes were selling a year ago and it marks the quickest pace since at least the 2008 recession – and maybe longer – since the group only started tracking that statistic a few years ago.
That bears out what real estate agents have been saying for some time – that appealing homes that are priced right will sell quickly in what has rapidly become a strong seller’s market.
“I’m surprised to see that it’s a 49-day average,” said Robyn Cannata, a broker at Hunt Real Estate Corp. “They must be figuring in those homes that just aren’t selling because my experience this past six months is that it was quite a seller’s market with homes that are in good condition, in a good location and priced correctly going much quicker than 49 days.”
The fast-moving pace is driven by strong demand from buyers eager to take advantage of the last gasps of low interest rates at a time when the supply of good homes has been shrinking.
“I have continued to see home sale prices increase along with solid demand,” said Robert Blake, a Hunt Real Estate broker. “Homes have continued to sell and demand remains high.”
Overall, the report – which includes arms-length transactions in the eight-county area plus some from Monroe and Livingston counties – showed that the Western New York housing market engine is poised to remain strong over the next two months, as the number of deals waiting to close jumped 10 percent, while prices remained near record levels despite interest rates that threatened to tick up.
Pending sales rose to 1,036 in August, a solid increase that indicates deal closings should pick up in September and October as those transactions move from contract to closing. It’s the third-highest level for any month since 2010.
In contrast, completed home sales rose just 0.8 percent in August from a year ago, to 1,126, reflecting a relaxing of the pace after a massive surge in the prior two months. Transactions typically take about two months from signing a contract to inking the deed, and the increase in pending deals during June was much less than in prior months.
Nevertheless, it’s the second-highest mark for any month in three years. And since January, closed sales are up 7.6 percent to 6,690, as the local market has picked up steam amid fears that the Federal Reserve will begin rolling back its policy of economic stimulus through lower short-term and long-term interest rates.
Already, the average interest rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage, which had fallen to a historic record low of 3.47 percent last December and was still below 4 percent as recently as May, has risen to as much as 4.8 percent in August. Rates currently are at least a percentage point higher than a year ago, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association, which tracks rate data on a weekly basis.
Still, that’s not holding back prices. The median sales price in August locally rose 1.2 percent to $130,000 – tied for the second-highest for any month in at least four years – while the average price rose 1.6 percent to $153,017, the fifth-highest since at least 2008. Both are below the peaks reached in July.
The rising prices are driven by high demand for a decreasing number of available homes for sale. Although homeowners in Western New York listed 1,551 houses on the market in August, up almost 2 percent from a year ago, the inventory of all homes for sale fell again by 16 percent to 5,313 – the 12th straight monthly decline.
That means stiff competition for the best houses, as shown by the speed in which deals are reached and the multiple offers on many homes these days that often result in sales well above the asking price. According to BNAR, the current supply of homes would last just 6.1 months, down 23 percent from 7.9 months a year ago.
Brokers noted that fall tends to bring a marked drop in househunting and sales volume, with school back in session and other priorities.
“Some houses are selling quickly, such as Cape Cods with three bedrooms and at least 1.5 baths in Town of Tonawanda, but even they are slowing down this last month,” said Sandy Pond of Nothnagle Realtors.
“Western New York’s real estate market is a seasonal one,” Blake said. “Kids are back in school, and people are wrapping up those last-minute household projects before the snow flies. It’s a fact that in Buffalo, the spring signifies the beginning of the real estate season and come autumn, we expect a slight decline.”
Still, brokers urged consumers not to wait.
“Although it isn’t quite as crazy as it was over the height of the summer, it’s still important to jump on a good listing pretty quickly if you are a buyer,” Cannata said.