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Luxury homes see surge in pending sales, but contracts for starter homes dip

Single-family homes asking $1 million and more saw

Single-family homes asking $1 million and more saw 151% jump in pending sales. Above, a home on Turtle Cove Lane in Huntington. Credit: Newsday/Thomas A. Ferrara

Long Island’s luxury housing market surged in July, with a big jump in the number of buyers signing contracts for houses listed at $1 million or higher.

Single-family homes asking $1 million or more saw a 151% annual jump in pending sales last month, with 98 contracts signed compared with 39 a year earlier, the brokerage Douglas Elliman and the appraisal company Miller Samuel said in a report to be released Thursday. The numbers reflect sales across Long Island, excluding the East End.

That outpaced the annual increase of about 41% in pending single-family home sales in all price ranges throughout Nassau County and western Suffolk County, according to the report.

The housing market lagged at the lowest price range, while the highest-priced homes enjoyed the biggest increases in pending sales. The only price range where pending sales dropped — by 20% annually — was homes listed at $199,999 or less, the report shows. In the $200,000 to $399,999 range, pending sales increased by 21%, compared with the previous July. Among homes listed for $400,000 to $799,999, pending sales jumped year-over-year by 65%. And pending sales increased by 90% annually for those priced from $800,000 to $999,999.

In the Hamptons, pending single-family home sales more than doubled year-over-year, and more than tripled in the $2 million to $10 million price range, the report shows. On the North Fork, pending sales increased by 40% annually, with the sharpest increase in the $1-million-and-up market; 16 homes asking $1 million or more went into contract last month, twice as many as the previous July, the report shows.

“The suburbs all of a sudden have become the hot item,” said Ann Conroy, chief executive of Douglas Elliman’s Long Island division. “A year ago it was all about downsizing, walking district to the village…. Now, because everybody wants the elbow room and the space, they are looking for large properties with all the amenities, and those come with a higher price tag.”

Some of the demand for Long Island’s highest-priced homes is coming from New York City residents who can work remotely, including high-end renters, who are “much more mobile than the person who has to sell and then buy,” Conroy said.

But she said it is unclear whether the shift to the suburbs will outlast the pandemic. “I still think that an urban person is an urban person and is going to want to get back to that,” she said.

Record-low interest rates and pent-up demand from the COVID-19 shutdown — which prohibited in-person work such as showings by real estate agents from late March until June 10 — also contributed to last month's jump in pending sales, said Jonathan Miller, president of Miller Samuel.

Those with higher incomes have a greater ability to work remotely, and they’ve also suffered lower rates of unemployment during the pandemic, Miller said.

“There is a case to be made that the greater mobility of the more affluent housing markets has given them an advantage in this crisis,” he said.

In some cases, city residents buying East End and North Shore houses are seeking a “co-primary” residence that would let them split their time between city and country homes, Miller said. Remote-work technology such as Zoom video conferences, he said, have “lengthened the tether between work and home … [and] caused those consumers to look at second-home markets as potentially a primary residence. In many ways they’ll maintain two residences, and they could live in either one for a prolonged period of time.”

Change in pending sales of single-family homes:

Long Island, excluding the East End: +41%

Hamptons: +121%

North Fork: +40%

Source: Douglas Elliman and Miller Samuel

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