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Long Island home prices lag as U.S. prices pass pre-recession peak

Homes across the country have recovered their pre-recession

Homes across the country have recovered their pre-recession prices, but on Long Island prices are still struggling. This sign is on a home in Chapel Hill, N.C. on June 9, 2015. Credit: AP / Gerry Broome

U.S. home prices have made a complete recovery from the housing crash, even as Long Island real estate values remain stuck below their pre-recession peaks.

The Standard & Poor’s CoreLogic Case-Shiller national home price index hit an all-time high in September, posting a 5.5 percent annual gain and slightly surpassing the previous pinnacle set in July 2006, a report released Tuesday shows.

On Long Island, home sellers are settling for less-than-peak prices.

In Nassau County, homes sold for a median price of $470,000 in October, a year-over-year increase of 9.3 percent but still 6.5 percent below their August 2007 high of $502,500, Multiple Listing Service of Long Island figures show. The median home price in Suffolk County was $339,830 in October, 3 percent above the year-ago level but 19 percent less than the county’s June 2007 high of $420,000, the listing service reported.

Long Island home prices are unlikely to bounce back to pre-housing crash levels in the near future, said Joe Moshé, broker and owner of Plainview-based Charles Rutenberg Realty.

“These are probably truer values . . . instead of the inflated values back then,” in the boom years before the 2007-2009 recession, Moshé said. “I don’t see them going back to that level anytime soon . . . unless there are major, major changes in industry on Long Island that’s going to [create] a greater economy here and greater demand for housing.”

Across the country, low mortgage rates have given the housing market a lift, although lending standards remain strict, said David Blitzer, managing director at S&P Dow Jones Indices. The recent rise in interest rates “could become a deterrent” to home buyers, he said. The average rate for a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage was 4.03 percent last week, up from 3.57 percent two weeks earlier, Freddie Mac reported.

What’s more, Blitzer said, home price gains have been outpacing increases in income. Nationally, the S&P home price index has risen by 38 percent since its February 2012 low point. The median household income nationwide increased by 7.3 percent from 2012 to 2015, to $56,516, the most recent census estimates show.

“Over the long run I don’t think we’re going to sustain having prices go up 5 or 5.5 percent” a year, Blitzer said. “It has to stop at some point.”

The strongest price gains have been in areas such as Silicon Valley, Seattle and Portland, Oregon, where the tech boom has created strong demand for housing and values actually exceed their previous records, Blitzer said.

By contrast, throughout the New York metropolitan area, September prices remained 14.4 percent below their June 2006 records, S&P reported.

In the New York area, “we haven’t had a core industry that has boomed,” said Jonathan Miller, chief executive of Manhattan-based appraisal company Miller Samuel. “Tech to a certain degree has been one of the drivers, but Wall Street has been lackluster for the last five to seven years.”

Now, he said, Long Island’s tight housing supply makes it “one of the better markets in the New York metropolitan region, aside from Brooklyn,” with modest price growth and strong sales. In the July-through-September period, Long Island — excluding the East End — had the most sales in 14 years and the lowest inventory in 13 years, he said.

As housing prices soared in the city, Miller said, “all of a sudden Long Island looked like it was a value proposition.”

The highs reached during the housing boom were fueled by dangerously loose lending standards, Miller said. “The peak was based on fraudulent credit practices, it was based on nothing,” he said. Now, he said, the New York-area housing market “is about where it should be.”

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