Calling it a sign that the weakened economy may be starting to rebound, the New York State Association of Realtors has pronounced 2010's first quarter to be stronger than expected.
According to statistics compiled by the Albany-based organization, home sales in the first quarter rose nearly 18 percent statewide compared to the same period in 2009. Median prices also rose 12 percent.
"As expected, home sales in the first quarter were markedly improved from a year ago, thanks in large part to the federal homebuyer tax credit, low mortgage rates and available inventory," said Duncan MacKenzie, New York State Association of Realtors chief executive officer. "We anticipate that those conditions will also result in strong sales numbers between April and June, as buyers strive to meet the tax credit program deadlines."
Under the federal homebuyer tax credit, buyers must have their new addresses under contract by April 30, and the deals must close by June 30.
State association statistics show there were 13,973 single-family home sales in the first quarter, which ended on March 31. The median first quarter sales price was $220,000.
However, both Erie and Niagara counties reported drops in first quarter sales, although the market showed large gains between February and March.
In Erie County, there were 914 first quarter single-family home sales this year, compared with 990 last year, a 7.7 percent drop. In Niagara County, there were 202 single-family home sales, compared with 228 last year, an 11.4 percent decrease.
The drops were attributed to a still skittish market.
Yet, median prices in Erie County rose 6.7 percent between 2009's first quarter and this year -- increasing from $105,000 to $112,000. In Niagara County, median prices went up nearly 6 percent, going from $79,893 to $84,600.
More encouraging, MacKenzie noted, were the dramatic hikes between February and March's home sale stats.
In Erie County, home sales between February and March rose 51.8 percent -- one of the highest jumps in the state -- increasing from 249 deals to 378, according to NYSAR statistics. The median price was $108,000 in March, while one year ago it was $105,000.
Niagara County reported a 39 percent increase in home sales between February and March, rising from 59 transactions to 82 deals. The median price rose 6.9 percent, increasing from $80,000 in March 2009 to $85,500 last month.