Nassau County's housing market heated up in August, with the median home price up 4.8 percent compared to the same period in 2011. Prices rose by a more modest 0.7 percent in Suffolk County, according to the Multiple Listing Service of Long Island.

The median price for home sales closed last month was $435,000 in Nassau and $322,360 in Suffolk, the listing service reported. The number of homes changing hands increased in the two counties, with sales activity up 12.2 percent in Nassau and 1.8 percent in Suffolk.

Home Search

Search Newsday for over 100,000 homes

Buyers are feeling increasingly confident about the market, said Suzanne Wehren of Shawn Elliott Luxury Homes & Estates in Woodbury.

"People have been holding back," she said. "They feel like they waited for prices to hit bottom, and they did."

In addition, buyers want to lock in low mortgage interest rates, Wehren said.

A few homes have even prompted bidding wars, for the first time in more than three years, said Claudia Galvin, manager of Daniel Gale Sotheby's International Realty in Garden City.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

However, such homes are typically very well-maintained, she said. Many first-time home buyers know exactly how much they can afford to borrow, and they do not want a "fixer-upper" for which repairs might overload their budgets, she said.

Nassau County's rising prices and activity are due to strong sales of luxury homes, said Gary Baumann of Prudential Douglas Elliman in Syosset and Dix Hills.

In Suffolk County, meanwhile, prices have been steady, Baumann said. In Suffolk, "I don't see home prices going up, what I see is more houses selling," he said.

The listing service also reported on homes that went into contract in August. There is typically a lag of a few months between the contract signing and the closed sale, brokers say.

Nassau County homes going into contract in August fetched prices slightly lower than they did a year earlier. The median pending sales price in the county was $389,170, down 0.5 percent from August 2011.

In Suffolk County, the median price of a home going into contract was $319,250, up 1.3 percent compared with the previous August.