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LI home sales spike, with Suffolk up 24%, Nassau up 19%

Prospective homebuyer Sarah Jafri of Hicksville, left, tours

Prospective homebuyer Sarah Jafri of Hicksville, left, tours a Syosset home for sale during an open house held by listing agent Ann Lee of Charles Rutenberg Realty, right, Saturday, Jan. 16, 2016. Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

Long Island’s housing market got a big jolt of activity last month.

In Suffolk County, the number of closed home sales spiked by 24.4 percent year-over-year, with 929 homes changing hands in February, the Multiple Listing Service of Long Island reported. Despite the frenetic pace of sales, the median price dipped by 0.9 percent year-over-year, to $315,000.

Nassau County home sales activity posted annual gains of 19.2 percent, with 825 homes finding new owners. The county’s median price increased by 7.7 percent, to $440,000.

It was the busiest February since at least 1988, listing service figures show. The unusually mild winter — the warmest December-through-February period on Long Island since at least 1984, notwithstanding the late January blizzard — might have helped.

“The market is definitely picking up,” especially for homes in the $300,000 to $500,000 range, said Barbara Wanamaker, owner of Prime Properties Long Island in Huntington. Higher priced homes — from $700,000 up to $2 million — are “a different story, they’re harder to sell,” she said.

The lower price range is attracting young adults who are starting families, Wanamaker said. “They’re finally realizing that [buying] is better than paying rent,” she said, adding, “Who knows, maybe they’re finally listening to their parents.”

What’s more, the economy appears to be stabilizing and interest rates remain low, said Allen Eldridge, owner of Smithtown-based RE/MAX Beyond. “People are trying to take advantage of the low rates before we do see a change,” Eldridge said.

The average rate for a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage was 3.68 percent this week, down 0.18 percentage points from a year earlier, mortgage giant Freddie Mac reported.

The number of homebuyers signing contracts for future sales increased in both counties in February, in a sign that it’s likely to be a busy spring. In Suffolk, the number of pending sales soared by 29.2 percent year-over-year, to 1,081. Nassau County pending sales grew by 13.2 percent, to 928.

Nassau homebuyers faced a tighter supply than those in Suffolk, by one measure. It would take 6.6 months to sell all the homes listed in Nassau at the current pace of sales, compared with 9.5 months in Suffolk, listing service figures show.

A balanced housing market has a six- to eight-month supply of homes, brokers say.

“The market is tightening, there is less inventory, and as a result I think you’ll see prices continue to rise,” Eldridge said.

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