Home sales decreased last month in York County, but local Realtors are optimistic about spring numbers.

The harsh winter slowed down March closings, as many potential buyers chose not to go house hunting in cold, snow and ice.

"We are certain the weather in February delayed many transactions from settling in March. Many Realtors are reporting an active start to the spring home-buying season," said Paula Musselman, president of the Realtors Association of York & Adams Counties.

Some 285 homes were sold in March — a 20 percent decrease from the 356 sales during the same month a year ago, according to statistics released Thursday by the association.

That's in line with a slowdown in sales across the country, but sales are expected to rebound, according to the National Association of Realtors.

"Buyer traffic information from our monthly Realtor survey shows a modest turnaround, and some weather-delayed transactions should close in the spring," said Lawrence Yun, chief economist for NAR.

Meanwhile, the median sale price increased 7 percent, from $131,250 in March 2013 to $139,900 last month.

"Pricing has definitely been going up. We don't have to deliver such bad news to sellers anymore," Musselman said.

Now that the snow and ice have melted, Realtors are seeing home sales increase.

"We're having a fantastic spring," she said. "The housing market has rebounded. There aren't as many foreclosures and short sells. It feels like recovery is on the horizon."

John LeCates, a Realtor with Howard Hanna, agreed the local market is improving.

"Sales are up, no doubt about it, and I'm getting a lot more calls to list properties," he said.

Prices are "creeping up slowly," but it's still an attractive market for buyers, LeCates said.

It's also a more competitive market.

"There are now multiple offers for houses," he said.

Many buyers are looking for ranch houses or other low-maintenance properties with easy floor plans.

"People don't want to mow huge lawns or spend a lot of time on upkeep," LeCates said.

Wood floors and big, modern kitchens are also on buyers' wish lists.

The interest is definitely there, but sometimes the loan process is slow and tedious, he said.

"Mortgage lenders are very picky and very strict," LeCates said.

Most home buyers in York County are using Federal Housing Administration loans, which allow the borrower to put down as little as 3.5 percent of the mortgage.

"The FHA loan is probably our top loan. Most people don't have 20 percent down," he said.

But all loan applications are on the upswing, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.

The number of applications increased 2.7 percent last week, according to statistics released Wednesday by the MBA.

—Reach Candy Woodall at cwoodall@yorkdispatch.com.