Tough sale

A report released by the New York state Association of Realtors on Thursday shows prices and sales are up in Fulton County, but new listings and homes for sale have dropped.

The report showed significant positives, but still several nagging negatives.

In Fulton County, the sales of 37 homes were closed in April, up from 21 in April 2013, a jump of 76.2 percent.

Veteran real estate agent Michael Teetz, Glove City Realty in Gloversville, said a spring spike in sales is fairly typical

“Especially after a strong, tough winter, it’s always better,” Teetz said.

Median sales prices jumped 25 percent from $80,000 to $100,000. Total homes for sale in Fulton County are down 10.9 percent at 547, from 614 in April 2013. New listings are also down, dropping 5.6 percent to 119 from 126 the prior year.

First-quarter year-over-year numbers for Fulton County were similar, with median sales prices up 4.3 percent, but total sales down 7.8 percent, homes for sale down 10.2 percent and new listings down 14.9 percent.

Those numbers are similar to national first-quarter real estate numbers, which show a 13.4 percent jump in the average price of a home sold last year, according to the Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller 20-city index. Average prices nationally are expected to rise by single digits this year. The gains could be strongest in areas with solid job growth, such as Seattle and Austin, Texas. And while construction will put more homes on the market, lack of affordability could keep sales flat to falling.

On the other hand, many lenders are easing the barriers for those with less-than-sterling credit. For these people, qualifying for a mortgage could become a little easier.

All of which leaves real estate, much like the rest of the economy, still trudging back to health nearly a half-decade after the recession ended. After last year’s growth spurt, the housing recovery may have begun an awkward adolescence, one prone to fits and starts that can defy predictions.

After the Great Recession officially ended in mid-2009, many economists predicted that pent-up demand for homes would drive sales in the years to come. Not exactly. Nearly five years into the recovery, buying remains subpar.

Sales of existing homes are projected to total 5 million this year, according to the National Association of Realtors. That’s about 100,000 fewer than last year and far below the 5.5 million associated with healthy markets.

Much of that shortfall can be summed up simply: Too few first-time buyers. They bought about 1.5 million homes last year, about 500,000 fewer on average than they would have typically.

Last year’s price increases make affordability a growing obstacle for first-timers, said Jed Kolko, chief economist for the online real estate firm Trulia. Unlike current owners whose down payments come from selling a previous home, first-timers must amass a down payment. And higher home prices require more cash up front.

And around the country, many homeowners are still reluctant to sell because they would likely lose money on the deal. The 2007 housing bust still haunts the market.

Crystal Ricciuti, a member of the Amsterdam City Board of Assessment Review, said she’s been trying to sell her home for more than a year. She said she originally bought the home, in a neighborhood near St. Mary’s Hospital, eight years ago for $90,000. She originally wanted $119,000 for the price, to pay her back for improvements she made to the house, but she’s since dropped it to $95,900. She said she doesn’t want to lower it any more because she knows what lowering home prices can do to tax assessments in a neighborhood.

“I’m not comfortable with lowering it much below $89,000,” she said. “I know the effect that it has over time on the tax base when the housing market drops. I know how it makes us look and feel as a community.”

Montgomery County, which lists its figures with the Greater Capital Region Association of Realtors, had bleaker data for April. According to GCAR, closed sales in Montgomery County dropped 6.7 percent to 14, from 15 last year, median sales price dropped 35 percent year-over-year from $128,750 to $83,750, total number of homes for sale was down 14.5 percent to 219 from 256 in April 2013 and new listings were down 23.6 percent year-over-year, from 55 to 42.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.