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Home sales cool, but prices remain stable

Home sales cool, but prices remain stable

The heated years of the Capital Region’s housing boom became a cool memory in 2007, with home sales

The heated years of the Capital Region’s housing boom became a cool memory in 2007, with home sales declining to their slowest pace since 2004, according to statistics released Monday by the Greater Capital Association of Realtors.

Area Realtors recorded a total of 9,726 closed single-family home sales last year, falling 8 percent short of 2006’s record of 10,524. During the same period, the area’s median sale price rose 2 percent to $192,500.

Even though a credit crunch, high energy prices, and other economic woes threw a wrench in the nation’s housing industry, area Realtors managed to post their fourth-best annual sales results since the Colonie organization started tracking sales in 1988. And while they were pleased to see home values rise — bucking the nation’s downward trend — prices increased only 2 percent, their slowest rate since 1999’s 1 percent uptick.

“The statistics we’d like homeowners to notice is that even with a slowing market homes have held their value, contrary to what we are hearing from other parts of the country,” said GCAR President Marie Bettini.

But the prices of homes in Saratoga County — once the region’s leader in terms of sales and value growth — did not hold their own in 2007. The county’s median sale price slipped 1 percent to $256,000. Sales were also down 9 percent to 2,548. That is a significant change from 2003, when sales rose 21 percent and home values increased 10 percent.

Schenectady County took the biggest sales hit last year, with its annual sales pace slowing 16 percent to 1,560. Yet it managed to record one of the largest gains in home value growth, with the median sale price increasing 3 percent to $162,500.

Last year ended without a bang regionwide, as sales in December plunged 19 percent to 681, compared with a year earlier. But during the period, the monthly median sale price rose 4 percent to $188,000.

“It pretty much is as expected. We would have like to have seen it be a lot more active, but it wasn’t. It was still a good market,” said GCAR Chief Executive Officer James Ader.

Nationally, total home sales — including single-family, condominiums, townhouses and cooperatives — slumped to 5.65 million, down 12.8 percent from 2006’s record high of 6.48 million. Those results made 2007 the fifth-best year on record for Realtors nationwide. Over the year, the U.S. median sale price fell 1.4 percent to $218,900, the National Association of Realtors announced last week.

With rates for jumbo loans standing above those for conventional mortgages, NAR officials believe the nation’s housing market could get a boost if lawmakers raise the limit for regular mortgages to $625,000 from $417,000. The Washington-based organization said that 50 percent increase in the loan limit on regular mortgages would increase home sales by 350,000, reduce foreclosures by up to 210,000 and increase economic activity by $44 billion.

NAR expects total U.S. home sales to inch up this year to 5.7 million and to 5.91 million in 2009.

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