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Home sales 'steady' despite restrictions


Apparently being cooped up at home isn't keeping people from buying homes. Numbers from the Erie County Clerk's Office show home and commercial sales are rolling right along, with taxes from the deals coming in for the county.

Clerk Mickey Kearns said the county will pick up at least $3 million from transfer taxes, which are important for the fiscally strapped county. There may be more from real estate and mortgage taxes.

Kearns said there has been one key change: those tables people used to sit around with their lawyers to buy and sell.

"It sort of was a rite of passage that people would come down here. I feel bad, but with COVID-19 and with social distancing, we will no longer have closings at the clerk's office," he said. "The closings have been done outside the office and we will have the attorneys back in and, obviously, the title workers back in, but things are going to change. That will be part of the new normal going forward into the future."

Buffalo Niagara Association of Realtors President Donna Littlefield said selling homes in this COVID-19 era has changed for her, as well. No in-person showings or open houses are allowed during the state of emergency and virtual showings are not simple.

"We are doing the best we can under the circumstances," Littlefield said. "I wouldn't say the market is hot, I would say it's steady. We are using every safety precaution there is to get the homes sold. We are following the COVID rules and regulations. We're essential with restrictions, but the market is doing really well."

Littlefield said it isn't the neighborhood, but the house which is key.

"If you've got a ranch anywhere in Jamestown, USA and it's a $100,000 ranch, then there's going to be 50 offers on it," she said, "A lot of people are coming in sight-unseeen. We do have a way that we can get a buyer in a home again safely, with the seller's permission."

Littlefield said mortgage lenders are still out there and lending, but if a home buyer is on furlough from work, the loan will be contingent on being back at work when the deal is ready to close.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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