Long Island's housing market is improving: Prices rose again at the end of 2013, and a combination of robust sales and scarce listings resulted in the lowest housing inventory in more than a decade.
The median home price across the Island, excluding the East End, was $360,000 in the final quarter of 2013 -- up 2.9 percent from a year earlier, according to a report by appraisal firm Miller Samuel and the brokerage Douglas Elliman scheduled to be released Thursday. A total of 5,982 homes were sold, up 31.8 percent from the final three months of 2012.
The inventory of home listings was 12,801, a drop of 12.2 percent from the 2012 period, and the lowest level since 2001.
"Last year was the best year on Long Island for a while, and I think Long Island's back," said Dottie Herman, chief executive of Douglas Elliman.
A release of pent-up demand from previous years and rising mortgage rates that "pulled a lot of people on the fence into the market" were major factors in the housing market improvement, said Jonathan Miller, chief executive of Miller Samuel.
Superstorm Sandy, which struck Oct. 29, 2012, and delayed or scuttled many sales across the Island, also depressed prices and sales numbers in the 2012 period, Miller added.
On the storm-damaged South Shore of Nassau County, the median closed sale price was $384,500 in the fourth quarter, up 1.7 percent from the year-ago period. The number of sales rose by 48.5 percent, to 845.
The numbers across Long Island, however, suggest more than just a rebound after Sandy.
"What you have is sustainable growth" on Long Island, Herman said. "When prices go up 3 to 4 percent, that growth is healthy because you can keep on growing. If prices go up 10 to 15 percent, you price yourself out of your own market. You don't have financing to do that anymore."
In the Hamptons, the median sales price was $770,500 in the fourth quarter, down 15 percent from the same period last year. The number of sales, 496, was down 6.2 percent. The North Fork's median sales price of $453,500 was down 6 percent from the previous September-to-December period, though the number of sales rose by 14.4 percent to 167.
The fall in Hamptons numbers was likely due to many high-end home sales that were rushed to close by the end of 2012 to avoid tax increases in 2013, Herman said.
A separate report from Miller Samuel and Douglas Elliman compared last year's housing market with 2004. It found that Long Island's median sale price of $361,000 in 2013 was 6.5 percent lower than the typical price in 2004. The number of sales -- 22,145 -- was down 14.6 percent compared with 2004.
In the Hamptons and on the North Fork, the median home price of $699,500 was 9.3 percent higher than it was in 2004.