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Pending home sales in Nassau, Suffolk spike, report says

Marcella Bosch stands in the kitchen of the

Marcella Bosch stands in the kitchen of the Huntington Village home whose sale is expected to close in August. Her family is buying a home in St. James. Credit: Marcella Bosch

Long Island homes went into contract at a furious pace in July, as buyers and sellers rushed back into the market after a nearly three-month shutdown.

The number of pending sales spiked by 60.6% in Nassau County and by 55.6% in Suffolk last month, compared with a year earlier, OneKey MLS, the multiple listing service that includes Long Island, reported Thursday.

The supercharged pace of pending sales could be due in part to pent-up demand from the COVID-19 shutdown, which banned showings and other in-person work by real estate agents from late March until June 10. In fact, looking at all pending sales from January through July, the market is slower than it was last year. Over that time frame, the number of homes going into contract fell by nearly 16% in Nassau and almost 10% in Suffolk, compared with the same period in 2019, listing service figures show.

The shutdown put a damper on closed home sales in July, which fell annually by 38% in Nassau and nearly 36% in Suffolk, the listing service reported.

Prices increased in both counties. In Nassau, closed sale prices ticked up 1.1% annually, to a median $551,250, and pending sale prices rose by 6.4%, to a median $580,000. Suffolk County median closed sale prices jumped by 5.8% to $439,000 and pending sale prices rose by 8.4% to $450,000, the listing service reported. 

New York City residents are flocking to Long Island in search of sprawling properties with pools and plenty of space for remote work, and they’re giving a lift to the previously lagging luxury market, brokers said.

On the North Shore of Nassau County, the most desirable homes — particularly those in move-in condition — are fetching a dozen offers and selling for more than the asking price, said Cynthia Awan, a real estate agent with Lucky to Live Here Realty in Cold Spring Harbor. One home listed for $1.7 million went into contract for $1.8 million, she said.

For city dwellers living in apartments, Awan said, the pandemic “really pushed them to say, ‘You know what, let’s make a move, but if we’re going to come out to Long Island, let’s get the pool, let’s get the two acres of property, let’s get the house that we really want.’”

The increased competition is forcing Long Island homebuyers to act decisively. Marcella Bosch, 38, said when her family found a four-bedroom brick Colonial-style home with a pool in St. James earlier this summer, "it was a high-stakes situation ... there were probably five or six offers on that house and we got into a bidding war. We had to offer well above asking price ... just because there was so little inventory."

But it was worth it, said Bosch, a buyer for Macy's who is in contract to sell her four-bedroom home in Huntington Village. "We had three little kids that needed a home and a secure environment, we wanted to be settled before school started, and the house we found, we really fell in love with, and we were willing to pay the price for it."

Both home sales are expected to close this month, Bosch said. 

In addition to higher demand from buyers leaving New York City, record-low interest rates and high rents are adding fuel to Long Island's housing market, said Hector Castillo, CEO of Syosset-based Exit Realty New York Metro, which has 12 locations on the Island. The average interest rate was 2.96% this week, down 0.64 percentage points from a year ago, mortgage giant Freddie Mac reported Thursday.

With low rates bringing down monthly mortgage payments, many people who have considered making their first home purchase or trading up to a more spacious house "are jumping on the bandwagon," Castillo said. 

Demand is especially fierce for homes in the $300,000 to $500,000 range, he said. A house in Huntington Station listed for $380,000 recently attracted 10 bids, half of them over the asking price, he said.

Buyers faced a drastic shortage of homes for sale last month, with inventory down annually by 16% in Nassau and nearly 32% in Suffolk, listing service figures show. At July's pace of pending sales, it would take 2.5 months to sell all the homes listed in Nassau and 1.9 months in Suffolk. By contrast, a year earlier, it would have taken roughly twice that long. 

With interest rates and inventory so low, Long Island's high unemployment rate — 12.9% in June, according to the most recent report by the state Department of Labor — does not appear to be bringing the housing market down, he said. 

One recent home sale fell through when one of the buyers lost her job, but the agent soon found a new buyer, Castillo said: "That tells me that there is a high demand for homeownership."

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