Long Island downtowns worth buying in

New York Avenue is part of a vibrant New York Avenue is part of a vibrant downtown in Huntington, one of six town centers that lure with arts, eateries, shops and style. Photo Credit: Newsday Photo / Bill Davis

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Long Island downtowns run the gamut. Some consist of busy stretches of small strip malls. Others offer marinas and waterfront dining. There also are those that have office buildings and apartments interspersed between mom-and-pop stores.

And, there are those downtowns that have it all -- a variety of shops, restaurants, banks, movie theaters, performing arts centers, supermarkets and the Long Island Rail Road, all within walking distance. Also, because these are busy and active downtowns with less wide open spaces, they usually tend to feature smaller single-family homes that are more affordable.

Here are six Long Island downtowns that real estate experts say are worth buying into. They give you the option to leave the car at home and just walk, and they also feature an assortment of housing stock:

Huntington

WHY IT'S WORTH BUYING IN

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If you want a downtown that boasts a performing arts theater, a park with free concerts, an independent movie theater, a more commercial movie theater, about 50 restaurants and 200 stores, Huntington is the area for you, says 17-year resident Cori Kaplan, associate broker with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Huntington. The area is also about one mile to beaches and the LIRR. "This downtown offers a little bit of everything and is always busy and active," Kaplan says.

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WHAT THE NUMBERS SHOW Sales in Huntington are off by 2.44 percent, whereas sales in Suffolk County are off by 5 percent, according to Multiple Listing Service of Long Island data.

WHAT'S ON THE MARKET About 65 percent of available residences are single-family houses, 10 percent are co-ops, 10 percent are condos, and the rest are rentals, she says.

RECENT HOME SALES

An updated three-bedroom, 1 1/2-bathroom Colonial on a quarter-acre sold in September for $560,000. Annual taxes of $8,400. A garden-style, one-bedroom, one-bathroom co-op with a separate dining room sold in September for $253,000, with a monthly maintenance fee of $600, which includes taxes.

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Great Neck

WHY IT'S WORTH BUYING IN "This downtown is like a consolidated, mini Manhattan," says Mona Holzman, branch manager for June Shapiro Realty Laffey Associates in Great Neck. There are more than 40 restaurants and nearly 125 stores, Holzman says. Downtown also is home to a LIRR station, several parks, a movie theater and a post office.

WHAT THE NUMBERS SHOW

In the second quarter, the average sales price in Great Neck - slightly more than $1 million -- was significantly higher than the average sales price in Nassau County -- $621,300.

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WHAT'S ON THE MARKET

About 40 percent co-ops, 20 percent condos, 20 percent single-family homes, and 20 percent rentals. A new condo development is just breaking ground, and a new rental building is opening at the end of October.

RECENT HOME SALES A four-room co-op with 1 1/2 bathrooms and a terrace sold for $350,000; maintenance is $1,089 a month. A renovated house on less than a quarter of an acre fetched $972,000. The home has four bedrooms, 2 1/2 bathrooms and taxes of $13,475.

Long Beach

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WHY IT'S WORTH BUYING IN Downtowners can walk not only to the train station but to an ocean beach and boardwalk, a multiplex, about 25 restaurants and almost 100 stores of nearly every type, says Joyce Coletti, licensed sales agent with Prudential Douglas Elliman in Long Beach.

WHAT THE NUMBERS SHOW

The number of homes sold in the second quarter of 2008 -- 50 -- is 13.6 percent higher than the first quarter -- 44 -- according to the Multiple Listing Service of Long Island.

WHAT'S ON THE MARKET

Everything -- single-family houses, two-family houses, town homes, condominiums, co-ops, seasonal rentals, and year-round rental apartments.

RECENT HOME SALES A 1,100-square-foot, two-bedroom, one-bathroom single-family house sold in October for $405,000, with $6,000 in taxes. A 700-square-foot one-bedroom, one-bathroom condo with a terrace on the boardwalk facing the ocean sold in October for $605,000. The condo has $300 in monthly common charges; annual taxes are $12,000.

Rockville Centre

WHY IT'S WORTH BUYING IN "With our own electric and water companies, buses, taxis, houses of worship, railroad stop that is just 37 minutes to Manhattan, 63 restaurants and 50 stores of every kind imaginable, it is a pleasure to live in our downtown," says Doreen Teta, real estate agent in the Merrick office of Prudential Douglas Elliman Real Estate, which services the community. The downtown area has a multiplex, numerous banks, and the post office.

WHAT THE NUMBERS SHOW Sales in the second quarter of 2008 were 5.02 percent higher than a year ago, according to Multiple Listing Service of Long Island data.

WHAT'S ON THE MARKET About 30 percent are condos, 20 percent are co-ops, 20 percent are rentals, and 30 percent are single-family houses.

RECENT HOME SALES A 700- square-foot studio apartment co-op unit sold in August for $125,000, with a maintenance fee of $1,000. An 1848 three-bedroom, two-bathroom Colonial with $9,565 a year in taxes sold in June for $385,000.

Babylon

WHY IT'S WORTH BUYING IN

"From restaurants to movies to an actual lake, downtown Babylon has a lot of activities all within an easy walking distance," says Mary Adams, managing partner of Century 21 American Homes in Babylon. "And, if a store does ever close, that space is usually taken over by another store in a very short period of time." There are about 50 stores and 15 restaurants, as well as a gazebo with free concerts, says Adams, who has worked in the area for 22 years and lives downtown as well. The Babylon stop of the LIRR is less than a mile away.

WHAT THE NUMBERS SHOW

The average sales price in the second quarter, $614,200, was 4.88 percent higher than a year ago at the same time, according to Multiple Listing Service of Long Island data. Adams says.

WHAT'S ON THE MARKET About 92 percent of the market consists of single-family homes; 5 percent are town house condos and 3 percent are co-ops.

RECENT HOME SALES

A three-bedroom, two-bathroom Colonial with some updates on one-half acre sold in July for $521,000. It is 2,600 square feet; annual taxes are $9,200. A three-bedroom, one-bathroom updated Cape Cod sold in

September for $427,000. It sits on about one-fifth of an acre and totals 1,800 square feet. Annual taxes are $6,200.

East Hampton

WHY IT'S WORTH BUYING IN

This South Fork enclave offers year-round and summer visitors almost everything at their fingertips - from the LIRR and Jitney to movies and stores, says Diane Saatchi, senior vice president at the East Hampton office of the Corcoran Group. The ocean is about two miles away. There are 11 restaurants. There are 50 stores, both part of national chains and mom-and-pop varieties. "While prices are down here, as they are everywhere, a home in this area will still hold its own and the downtown will always be a popular place to buy," says Saatchi.

WHAT THE NUMBERS SHOW There were four sales in the second quarter; last year at the same time, there was one. Nine of the 10 most expensive properties sold in East Hampton in 2008 were here.

WHAT'S ON THE MARKET The housing stock is 99 percent year-round single-family homes and the rest are town house condos, she says.

RECENT HOME SALES A 4,023- square-foot ranch-style house sold in July for $5.2 million, with three bedrooms and four bathrooms on 1.8 acres, with taxes of $13,166. A 2,600- square-foot barn-style home with four bedrooms and 4 1/2 bathrooms sold in July for $2.1 million, on almost half an acre with taxes of $12,138.

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