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Local housing market still slumping

Local housing market still slumping

The housing market recovery has yet to appear in local home sales data, as fewer homes are being sol

The housing market recovery has yet to appear in local home sales data, as fewer homes are being sold for less money while potential buyers, many worried about job security, stay on the sidelines.

Sales of newly constructed and resold single family homes in the Capital Region were down 8 percent in May compared with last year, according to the Greater Capital Association of Realtors, which serves 3,300 real estate professionals in 13 counties.

The number of listings remained unchanged in May at around 1,700, while residential closed sales were down 30 percent. The value of homes sold in the region also decreased.

The median sales price for homes sold in May was $191,900, down 2 percent from $195,300 in May of last year.

Overall, year-to-date housing sales in the Capital Region are at a three-year low, going from 4,596 homes sold in 2006 to this year’s 3,288 homes sold.

“There are a lot of inquiries, but many people are just not making that purchase decision,” said James Ader, GCAR chief executive officer. “They’re waiting for something else to happen to make sure their jobs are secure.”

GCAR President Sandra Nardoci said despite the standstill among buyers, Realtors are busy with open houses, phone calls and Internet leads.

“The feeling is that when buyers become confident that their jobs are secure our market will pick up rapidly,” Nardoci said Tuesday in a statement. “However, until then, we have to remind sellers to be patient.”

Area counties varied in their May numbers:

u Housing sales in Schenectady County were down 21 percent but the median home sale price rose 6 percent from last year, going from $151,500 to $160,000.

u In Montgomery County, sales were down 23 percent but the median sale price rose 39 percent, from $76,500 to $106,700.

u In Schoharie County, residential sales saw an uptick from 19 homes sold to 23 and the median sale price jumped 12 percent from $131,800 to $148,500.

u Saratoga County saw a slight increase in homes sold, going from 210 homes last year to 213 this year. But the median sale price slid from $247,700 to $238,800, a 4 percent decrease.

Anecdotally, Ader said, the $200,000-and-below, first-time home buyer market locally is performing well despite the overall slowdown in the housing industry — mirroring a national trend.

The National Association of Realtors said first-time buyers in May accounted for 29 percent of transactions, and overall that number is up 10 percentage points from a year ago.

“This is the time of year when we see large increases in the number of repeat buyers who are benefitting from sales to entry-level buyers,” NAR economist Lawrence Yun said. “Investors appear less active but are more prevalent in areas with large price corrections.”

While housing sales numbers are seasonal — buyers are usually more active in the spring and summer and less active during colder, winter months — median sales prices traditionally are not, Ader said.

But median home prices this year rose from $171,700 in January to $191,900 in May. Last year, median home price values flip-flopped each month, bouncing between $185,000 and $195,000 during the January-to-May period.

Ader said the trend of median home prices this year reflects supply and demand — what buyers are valuing in the marketplace.

“If buyers are creating an increase in median sales prices through the year, there is an indication that the market is becoming better,” Ader said.

In New York state, Realtors sold 5,557 existing single-family homes in May — a 19 percent decrease from last May. Median sale prices statewide also saw a decrease, going from $205,000 to $185,400, a 7.8 percent decline.

Despite the decline, Duncan R. MacKenzie, chief executive officer of the New York State Association of Realtors, said Tuesday the $8,000 federal tax credit along with a favorable lending environment helped boost closed sales of single-family homes by 11 percent.

“Our members indicate to us that the federal tax credit is working very well in bringing first-time buyers to the market,” said MacKenzie. He noted New York Realtors are urging first-time buyers to be under contract by the end of September to ensure a closing before the Dec. 1 federal tax credit deadline.

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