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The Western N.Y. housing market hasn’t experienced the peaks and valleys of the housing market as dramatically as some other markets across the nation. Like the tortoise in Aesop’s fable, new home production and prices in the area have moved at a slow and steady pace.
“Like everyone, we’ve taken some hits and consumer confidence has been affected, but overall we’re a market that has bucked the trend,” said Joe McIvor, executive vice president of the Buffalo Niagara Builders Association.
The association has turned that theme into a promotional campaign, displaying the “Bucking the Trend” message on banners, print advertising and other promotional material in conjunction with their Horizons Home Show and Parade of Homes events.
Single-family permits are down 19% in Buffalo, significantly lower than the 40% average decline nationally. Part of the reason local builders haven’t had to substantially scale back production is that they didn’t ramp it up during the housing boom years. The area’s population has been slowly declining as the local economy has had to adjust to the loss of blue collar jobs.
The HBA, however, has continued to find active purchasers of single-family homes in one segment of the population, and it has targeted that group in some of its promotional efforts.
According to McIvor, families in the area are most likely to want to move into a single-family home when they reach their mid-30s to mid-40s.
“This group is seeing that homeownership looks like a safer long-term investment than the stock market, with local prices continuing to appreciate at a modest but consistent 3% to 5%,” he said. “So they’re still going forward with their purchases.”
McIvor added that people are losing confidence in what they’re being told — for example, that rising gas prices would never come down again — but historical appreciation in home values is something they can see for themselves.
The BNBA has also taken steps to get positive coverage of the housing industry in the local newspapers. In October, it brought in NAHB economist Elliott Eisenberg to conduct an economic impact analysis and report to local representatives from the economic development and home-building industries.
His findings were covered in the article “Home building is economic generator” in the Buffalo Business First newspaper, and Eisenberg’s op-ed “New home construction more than pays for itself” was published in the Buffalo News.
This was followed in early November with a Sunday Buffalo News business section front page article headlined “Home-building crash is muted in WNY.” The article featured quotes from area builders, including one from Philip J. Nanula, the president of Essex Homes in Clarence, N.Y.: “In the past two weeks, as the stock market was falling 900-some points, we sold three homes and signed contracts for another five. Our phones are still ringing and we’re still building.”