Good year for CNY home sales with high demand and higher prices

It's almost prime house selling season in Central New York. This year, good news for sellers, buyers and the economy.

With 'for sale signs' going up on lawns around Central New York, realtors are getting ready for peak buying and selling season, typically April and May. But the season is already underway, with indications it will be a good one for buyers, sellers, realtors and the Central New York economy. Sellers are getting more, and buyers can find incentives to help them close sales.

At one of the area's larger companies, Prudential Central New York Realty, January sales were up 17.4% over last year's January. Value of the homes sold was up 28%. The number of homes available to sell was down 23.8%.

It's moving to a pretty good seller's market right now," says Prudential CNY owner Dan Hartnett. "The inventory being so low and interest rates being so low. the sellers, if they have their house prepared when they're putting it on the market, they can sell it fairly quickly."

And, get a good price: a housing survey by FIServ, out today, puts Syracuse at #4 in the country with projected increases in housing prices (up 5%).

In the increasingly-competitive market, it's becoming harder for homes to be sold directly by owners. Most buyers start their search on the web, where realtors post information, and pictures. "That's where everyone is starting now," says Kirnan Real Estate salesperson Amber Hotaling. "That's where your house makes its first impression."

We caught up with Hotaling, at a home she's showing in Syracuse's Valley section, near Green Hills. The Edna Road ranch has been on the market a couple weeks, and on Tuesday she was holding a brokers' open house, "an opportunity," says Hotaling, "to have the agents familiar with the anrea come in and see the house before they bring their clients in."

It's another way to market, but both Hotaling and Hartnett say the key is also to have selling points obvious to the buyer. Hotaling pointed to hardwood floors, "everyone wants hardwoods," as well as the home's condition, big fenced yard and newer windows. "Pretty sells," says Hartnett. Not to mention family neighborhoods, and energy efficient homes.

The upturn in sales is helping builders as well as existing home sales. Hartnett says there's already lots of interest in the 200+ condos scheduled to be built starting this fall in Syracuse's Inner Harbor. And the Parade of Homes, set for this fall in Jamesville Grove, already has 5 of its 8 models pre-sold.

Hartnett says the increased home sales start with more first-time buyers selling and moving up, and there's incentive for new first timers to become homeowners. Even though homes may cost buyers more, with mortgage interest rates staying low, it's still a good deal, says Hartnett, especially for first-time buyers. "The rentals have been going up in price, and the reality is, today you can pretty much have a mortgage that can cost less than you would pay for rent."

And Hartnet says there's another incentive: "We have partnered with a number of banks who are offering grants to a number of first time can get up to $75-hundred dollars in grant money for down payments and closing costs. That really moves the market."