Sunshine. Green grass. Creeping interest rates. Take your pick.
As with every year, the spring transition into summer has brought with it a surge in the local housing market.
Realtors say that in addition to their usual summer gains, a slight rise in interest rates may also be boosting sales as of late, prodding the nervous to go out and buy while rates are still low.
Either way, May sales figures support both theories.
Pending sales, the point at which buyer and seller agree to terms of a sale, rose 16 percent in May from one year earlier across the Capital Region, according to statistics released today by the Greater Capital Association of Realtors.
The last time pending sales were this high was April 2010, when a homebuyer tax credit artificially boosted the market. In addition, closed sales rose 6 percent in May and the median sale price of a home rose 5 percent.
“The market is getting better,” said GCAR CEO James Ader. “Last year was good, but the years before that were not particularly good for this region. We certainly see housing in the Capital Region as strong now.”
As for what makes the summer market so hot, Ader said he knows of no scientific reason better weather equals better sales, but he has found that families with children prefer to move into new houses before school starts up in the fall.
And obviously, houses just look better against blue skies, green grass and budding trees.
“When people put their homes on the market, they prefer to use pictures from the spring and the summer. There must be something to that,” said Ader. “By the end of summer, it begins to slow again. By the time holidays are upon us and the weather has started to chill, people are less likely to buy.”
The phones ring more at Prudential Manor Homes when it’s nice out.
“If the sun is shining, we tell our customer service center to be ready,” said Jay Christiana, president of the Albany-based real estate company that serves the Greater Capital District. “We track and monitor everything that’s going on in our company, and the busiest time for us without a doubt are spring and summer.”
Christiana said he is just starting to see an uptick of activity that he predicts is from rising interest rates.
The low 3.5 percent rate that stuck for a while is slowly beginning to creep up in just the past three weeks, he said, pushing those who may have been on the fence about buying a home to take the leap.
In particular, he has seen strong markets across Saratoga County, and parts of Rensselaer and Columbia counties.
May home sales in fast-growing Saratoga County continue to trend upward, with pending sales rising 15 percent from 241 contracts of sale in May 2012 to 278 last month. Closed sales rose 22 percent over this period, as well, from 200 to 243.
• In Albany County, pending sales were up 23 percent from 217 to 267. Closed sales were down 2 percent from 178 to 175.
• In Schenectady County, pending sales were up 13 percent from 128 to 144. Closed sales were down 7 percent from 120 to 112.
• In Montgomery County, pending sales were up 38 percent from 16 to 22. Closed sales fell 24 percent from 17 to 13.
• Both pending and closed sales fell in Schoharie County, which has faced a long recovery from the 2011 tropical storms that flooded many homes. Pending sales were down 42 percent from 19 to 11, with closed sales down 32 percent from 25 to 17.