The October median home closing price on Long Island fell for the third straight month to $360,000, after rising slowly for much of the year.

The 3 percent drop from September's $370,500 reflects uncertainty in the housing market, the Sept. 30 end of the federal home buyers' tax credit and the end of the prime buying season for the year, with many families staying rooted for the school year.

It was news Nick Lalota could use as he and wife Kaylie looked at for-sale properties in Amityville Wednesday. The two have been looking for more than a year but are willing buyers now because they think they are "plus or minus six months" from the bottom of the market and prices could rise.

"I know that the seller fears prices will continue to decline," said Lalota, a state worker from Copiague. "I intend, in a friendly and diplomatic way, to take advantage of that."

Some real estate brokers say the median price can be a deceptive marker of the housing market's health. It's a sign of who's buying, they said, not necessarily of falling property values.

"As different segments of the market have gotten busier, that number moves up and down," said Jerry O'Neill, head of Coldwell Banker Harbor Light, which covers parts of the South Shore, from Massapequa to Babylon. "We've had a lot more activity at the lower price range."

Lately, lower-priced homes have been hot, buoyed by first-time buyers, while the $450,000 range and up has been quieter, agents said.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

While industry veterans define a trend as three months or more, several Long Island agents hope that will be offset by recent good news, including the drop in unemployment filings.

The dropping median closing prices reflect what real estate agent Mike Meditz, a 30-year industry veteran,said he's seen on the front lines.

A year ago, he spoke to a potential client about listing a home for $390,000. Just Wednesday, after the client agreed to sell, he listed it at $350,000.

More buyers are lowering listing prices from the start, which means even lower closing prices after bargaining with buyers, he said. "They're very, very nervous about doing it," said Meditz, of Lynda Baker Realty in Hicksville. "They are doing it but they are taking their time."