John Connolly

I think the local real estate market has been affected by the weather and there's no other word to describe it but "crazy." The most prolonged winter weather in years has stifled the real estate market locally, and my feelings are shared by Realtors, lenders and other real estate professionals I have talked to in the last month.

Statistically, according to the Buffalo Niagara Association of Realtors, closed sales in February were up 1% from a year earlier, but plunged 24% from the month before. I think there are a number of reasons for this. The weather, of course, has been awful, but people are still unsure of the economy. In addition, gas prices continue to climb above $4/gallon where I think many people are saying, "let's stay here a while longer."

In addition, last year we may have overstimulated the market with the federal tax credit for first-time and move-up buyers. Those credits, $8,000, and $6,500 respectively,  moved many buyers off the fence and led to some inflated statistics for 2010. We have to see what the Realtors' group comes up with when they release March figures in early May. Meanwhile, the Realtors' group figures show that Western New York continues to buck the national trend, with housing prices continuing their year-over-year increase. Prices are up about 5% from last year. And that's always money in the bank for Western New York homeowners.

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