Housing slump continues, but local Realtors see signs of improvement

Home values as well as the number of closed sales in the Capital Region each declined by 6 percen


Home values as well as the number of closed sales in the Capital Region each declined by 6 percent in June compared to last year, even as more houses were listed and more people entered into contracts of sale, according to the Greater Capital Association of Realtors.

The number of closed sales dropped from 829 in June 2008 to 783 in June 2009; Median sales values of residential homes went from $193,000 in 2008 to $181,100 in June 2009.

Closed sales for the first six months of 2009 are down 21 percent, compared to last year.

But Realtors say there are signs the market is improving.

The reasons for optimism include the 2 percent increase of residential listings from 1,704 in June ‘08 to 1,730 in June 2009 and the 8 percent uptick in contracts of sale, which went from 872 contracts last June to 941 contracts in June 2009.

“If we look at contracts of sale during June, the number of times buyers and sellers have agreed on a sale, and compare that to June of last year we see that number has increased by 8 percent,” said James Ader, GCAR’s chief executive officer. “And while we certainly can’t assume all these contracts will make their way to a closing we do see this as another sign of an improving market. We hope to see this trend continue.”

But the housing statistics for Saratoga, Schenectady, Schoharie, and Montgomery Counties clearly show Realtors are cutting prices to stimulate demand from buyers — and though that helped June’s closed sales improve, year-to-date closed sales are still negative compared to last year.

In Saratoga County, June closed sales were up 9 percent, but median sale values were down 8 percent compared to last year, dropping from $265,000 to $245,000. In Schenectady County, closed sales were up 15 percent, but median home prices were down 10 percent, dropping from $161,500 to $146,000. In Schoharie County, closed sales increased 5 percent, but media home values dropped 10 percent, from $143,800 to $130,000.

Some Realtors say slashing prices is part of the explanation — sellers may also be willing to transfer ownership for lower values, due to the economy woes.

“It’s a two way street,” said Catherine Dobies, executive officer for the Saratoga, Schenectady, Schoharie Association of Realtors. “(The market) is on the rise, it’s going to rebound in the next couple of months,”

In Albany County, June closed sales were down 8 percent compared to last year, but contracts of sales increased by 6 percent as median home prices dropped 3 percent, from $207,500 to $201,000.

In Rensselaer County, closed sales were down 26 percent, but contracts of sale were up 18 percent as median sale prices saw a slight increase from $170,000 to $172,800.

Montgomery County bucked all trends, posting a drop in closed sales of 30 percent for June, but also saw a 30 percent decline in the number of people entering sales contracts. Median home prices rose 1 percent from $120,000 to $121,300.

“With half of 2009 behind us we recognize that our market has been slower than it has been in a number of years. But my recent personal experience, and experiences that are shared by other agents, have shown that the market is improving; that first-time home buyers are active; and that in most instances well priced properties are being shown,” said Sandra Nardoci, GCAR president. “We are pretty much all optimistic that these are signals of a return to a healthier more active residential market as we move through 2009.”

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