LI's January home prices off 5-6% in year

Rupert Salmon seeks foreclosure counseling Thursday in the

Rupert Salmon seeks foreclosure counseling Thursday in the state’s mobile command center visiting Brentwood. He’s missed 12 loan payments on his Wyandanch home since losing his job as a chef. (Feb. 9, 2012) (Credit: Daniel Brennan)

Long Island's housing market showed few signs of improvement in January, with prices and sales volume continuing to sink across Nassau and Suffolk counties. That's according to a monthly report from the Multiple Listing Service of Long Island, which tracks the regional housing market.

According to the data, the median closing price fell 6.1 percent in Nassau last month compared to January 2011, from $410,000 to $385,000. The median closing price slipped below the $300,000 mark in Suffolk, falling 5.2 percent from $313,000 to $296,800.

Sales volume also fell 5.2 percent across Long Island and Queens in January compared with a year earlier, according to MLS data, and the Island's inventory of homes fell just 1.4 percent.

Long Island's home market is "showing a lot of life, but there's still an awful lot of caution," said James Retz, a senior vice president at Daniel Gale Sotheby's International Realty in Cold Spring Harbor, where he oversees local market research.

One potential bright spot: Contracted sales -- those not yet closed -- jumped 17.8 percent in January compared with a year earlier, perhaps suggesting a pickup of sales activity soon. Retz warned, however, that trend "could reverse itself very quickly."

Pearl Kamer, chief economist at the Long Island Association, said a high number of contracted sales was a "good sign" and could signal improvement up ahead.

But she said Long Island is still plagued by a wave of foreclosures that continues to pull down sales prices. A "shadow inventory" of homes -- those not yet through the foreclosure process -- could also add to the Island's already bloated inventory, Kamer said.

Rupert Salmon, 54, is seeking a modification from his lender but has already missed 12 months of payments and his Wyandanch home is in the foreclosure process. Salmon first fell behind after losing his job as a chef in 2009 -- and was one of dozens who sought free mortgage counseling from state officials in Brentwood Thursday.

"I still want to make my payments," said Salmon, who hopes to keep his home. "It's just a mess."

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