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Hot real estate market: Long Islanders are rushing to close deals

Limited inventory and strong demand mean that reasonably priced homes in good condition sell quickly. But as prices rise, homes are becoming harder to afford.

Susan Weber is seen in her Melville home,

Susan Weber is seen in her Melville home, which attracted a full-price offer of $549,000 within four days of being placed on the market in April.  Photo Credit: Chris Ware

Long Island home buyers are rushing to close deals, giving the housing market its fastest start to the year since the housing boom of more than a decade ago, a new report shows.

Across the Island, excluding the East End, homes sold in the first quarter of 2018 spent an average of 84 days on the market, from the listing date to the signing of a sale contract, the appraisal company Miller Samuel and brokerage Douglas Elliman said in a report to be released Thursday. That’s down 14 days from a year earlier, the report shows.

Many homes sell much more quickly. A four-bedroom home in Melville went on the market earlier this month for $549,000 and attracted a full-price offer within four days, said Roberta Feuerstein, an associate broker with Douglas Elliman who represented the seller.

Two days after receiving the offer, Feuerstein hosted an open house that drew more than 30 prospective buyers.

“I had people lined up in the cul-de-sac to see the home,” she said. “We couldn’t even handle it.”

The sellers, Susan and Fred Weber, decided to honor the first offer even though more bids came in, Feuerstein said. “They didn’t want a bidding war because it gets ugly,” she said.

Susan Weber, 64, a retired teacher, said the couple, who are moving to Pennsylvania, “had been hoping for a sale by midsummer or so.” The pair were “delighted” by how quickly the home sold, she said. “It’s just mind-boggling . . . if it’s a good listing it goes quickly,” she said.

Competition among buyers drove up the region’s median home price to $410,000 in the first three months of the year, an annual increase of 6.5 percent, according to the report. The number of closed home sales dropped by 1.3 percent annually, the first year-over-year decline in more than three years. Listings ticked up by 2 percent, to 11,022.

Long Island’s housing market “mirrors what’s happening nationally, with chronically low inventory and steadily rising prices,” said Jonathan Miller, chief executive of Miller Samuel.

As mortgage interest rates have risen, buyers have hurried to close deals before rates increase further, brokers say.

Inventory is low in part because homes are selling so quickly, and also because some homeowners are reluctant to list their properties because even if they want to downsize or trade up, it’s difficult to find an appealing, affordable next home on the Island, brokers said.

Prices have risen so much, in fact, that “affordability pressures” — that is, buyers’ inability to keep up with rising values — are starting to put the brakes on price increases, Miller said.

Rising home prices mean that some Long Islanders have to stretch to buy a home, said Peter Elkowitz, president and CEO of Long Island Housing Partnership, a nonprofit based in Hauppauge that develops affordable housing and provides counseling and education to low- and moderate-income clients.

“Some people try to overextend what they can afford and you’ll have problems down the road,” he said.

Also, more clients are sharing homeownership with siblings or friends to ease the cost burden, or living with their parents because of a lack of affordable housing, he said.

Long Island home sales have been more rapid in the three most recent quarters, including the three months ended in March, than any time since 2006. In the third and fourth quarters of 2017, it took 73 and 78 days, respectively, to sell a home, Miller Samuel figures show.

The slowest pace of any quarter since 2006 was in the first quarter of 2012, when homes were on the market for 137 days.

The quicker selling pace means many prospective buyers have learned to make offers as soon as possible.

That was the case for Alicia and Nicole Laurentz, both 37, who lost bids to buy four or five homes. Then in February the couple found a four-bedroom home in Wantagh asking $449,000. It was listed on Feb. 21, they saw it three days later and their agent, Jamie Gorman of Plainview-based Charles Rutenberg Realty, put in a bid the same day, Alicia Laurentz said.

“We went a little above what was asked,” she said. “We really wanted the house and in order to get what you want, you have to fight for it.”

The couple closed the sale on Monday and expect to move from their Cedarhurst rental to their new home in mid-May.

One exception to Long Island’s generally faster-paced market was the north shore of Nassau County, where homes spent 109 days on the market, unchanged from a year earlier. In that region, the median price was $803,750, up 3.7 percent year over year.

However, homes that are reasonably priced and in good condition are “gone in a day,” often with multiple offers, said Ann Conroy, president of Douglas Elliman’s Long Island division.

“The buyer demand is still very, very strong and there is still low inventory” despite the recent uptick in listings, Conroy said. The low supply is leading to bidding wars between buyers, who “have to come in with their highest and best offers,” she said.

Home sales speeded up on the North Fork, too, where homes spent 136 days on the market, down 26 days from a year earlier, the report shows. Strong demand from buyers drove up the median price by nearly 18 percent year over year, to $612,500. The number of sales rose annually by 5 percent.

In the Hamptons, the pace of home sales slowed to 154 days, three days longer than in the first quarter of 2017. Hamptons median home prices remained flat, at $995,000, and the number of closed sales dropped year over year by 6.6 percent, Miller Samuel and Douglas Elliman reported. However, the median price of luxury homes — the top 10 percent of sales — jumped by 27.5 percent, to $6.6 million.

A “horrific” winter kept some would-be home buyers away, said Ernest Cervi, the East End executive managing director for the Corcoran Group. With many vacation homes unoccupied during this winter’s frequent snowstorms, he said, “you literally needed a shovel to get to the front door.”

 With Tory N. Parrish

Days on the market

Long Island home sales have been more rapid in the three most recent quarters than any time since 2006. Their average days on the market:

3Q 2017: 73

4Q 2017: 78

1Q 2018: 84

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