Capital Region housing sales better in February than year earlier

The Capital Region’s housing market ramped up in February, with more activity resulting in more sale

The Capital Region’s housing market ramped up in February, with more activity resulting in more sales and higher prices compared with a year earlier, the Greater Capital Region Association of Realtors said Tuesday.

Closed sales, which indicate the point when a home’s title is transferred between buyers and sellers, were up 23 percent in February, increasing to 414 from last year’s 336. Median home values increased 9 percent to $175,000.

“We don’t expect every month going forward to show across-the-board improvement, and certainly not to the degree evidenced last month, but we do think that the market is slowly rebuilding itself,” GCAR President Laurence Curtin said in the announcement. “Contracts of sale, a harbinger of things to come several months down the road, are up by 14 percent; closed sales, where title changes hands, are up 23 percent. The Capital Region market is alive and well.”

James Ader, GCAR’s chief executive officer, said the market continues to feel the effect of the extended federal first-time homebuyers’ tax credit, which expires at the end of April.

“We think it got the market going and that’s going to continue even after the tax credit ends,” Ader said. “Talking to members, they say it has been a significant influence.”

The IRS has yet to release official figures that could quantify the effect of the tax credit locally. But even if the figures were available, Ader said, it would be difficult to estimate the number of people who took advantage of the credit who otherwise would not have bought a house.

February was the latest of several months of increasing pending sales over the year before, he said.

“There is no question the market is up more now than it was a year ago,” Ader said.

Overall contracts of sale were up 14 percent for February compared with the previous year, going from 542 to 616.

Nearly every county in the Capital Region experienced a boost in closed sales and home values in February. Schoharie County was the exception, going from $153,000 to $86,000 over the year. But Ader said the sales total was so small there’s not enough data to derive meaning from the difference in home values.

On April 17 and 18, GCAR will host an open house weekend that will be part of a nationwide effort to open houses to potential buyers, according to Curtin.

The state Association of Realtors will release official housing statistics for New York state today, according to NYSAR spokesman Salvatore Prividera, who said there was a reporting delay from some areas that is being corrected today.

Nationwide, existing home sales took a dip in February by 0.6 percent. The national median existing-home price for all housing types was $165,100, down 1.8 percent. Distressed homes made up 35 percent of sales, according to the National Association of Realtors.

NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun said winter storms last month may “mask underlying demand.”

“Some closings were simply postponed by winter storms, but buyers couldn’t get out to look at homes in some areas and that should negatively impact near-term contract activity,” he said in an analysis. “Although sales have been higher than year-ago levels for eight straight months and home prices are much more stable compared to the past few years, the housing recovery is fragile at the moment.”

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