This house on Saxon Avenue in Bay Shore, which is...

This house on Saxon Avenue in Bay Shore, which is zoned for Islip schools, will hit the market at $549,000 on Saturday... Credit: Maria Wilbur

The number of homes sold on Long Island in November fell 16.9% compared with the previous year, when the pandemic had driven up closings to recent highs, while prices continued to rise above 2020 levels. Sales activity was held back by a record low number of homes for sale, according to OneKey MLS, the listing service that includes Long Island.

The median sale price in Nassau County was $655,000 in November, or 9.3% more than it had been in the same month last year. It was the first month since May that prices had not appreciated at least 10% year-over-year. In Suffolk County, the median sale price was $520,000 last month, or 10.3% higher than in November 2020, according to data released Wednesday.

Prices changed little from October. The Nassau median increased $5,000, or 0.8%, from its October level, while in Suffolk the median was $1,000 higher than in the previous month, a 0.2% gain.

Sale prices in Nassau reached their record levels in July and August when the median hit $670,000 two months in a row. Suffolk set its own record in August, when the median was $531,000.

"We were at record highs — that’s really not the case anymore," said Jim Speer, CEO of OneKey MLS. "We’re seeing a leveling off. We’re really not seeing a decrease."

Homeowners sold far fewer properties in November than at that time in 2020. The number of homes sold in Nassau declined 19.2% to 1,189, and in Suffolk the number of sales dropped to 1,492, which was 14.9% below the number sold in November 2020. Closings had surged last fall, reflecting an easing of COVID-19 restrictions, after homebuyers rushed into the market in the summer months.

The drop in the number of sales reflects the record low supply of houses on the market, Speer said. Even for buyers willing to pay elevated prices, there are fewer houses for sale and deals are struck quickly.

There was a 1.9-month supply of houses available for sale in Nassau last month, and 2.1-month supply in Suffolk, based on the pace of sales that had gone into contract but not yet closed last month. Those figures are down from 3.3 months and 2.4 months, respectively, at the end of November 2020. In a balanced market for buyers and sellers, there would be five or six months of supply.

Speer said he doesn’t expect the Island’s inventory problem to abate this winter.

"We’ve had low inventory for quite a while now," Speer said. "I would expect it to stay at a pretty low level, hopefully not at this low a level, but I expect we wouldn’t see a great increase in the coming months."

Michael Grannum, a real estate agent at EXIT Realty Premier in Massapequa, said inventory remains thin, and while the market is stabilizing for higher-priced listings, homes listed at $600,000 or less are still receiving overwhelming interest. Grannum, who typically markets homes on the South Shore of Nassau, said while prices might be at a level that buyers can meet, the quality of houses isn’t keeping up, he said.

"Sellers are seeing an opportunity that suggests they can put a house on the market that’s not necessarily in excellent condition, and because of that inherent inventory, take advantage of the fact that people are just simply trying to get something," Grannum said. "If it’s a fundamentally stable house … people are saying I can work with that."

Pending sales data from November for deals that had not yet closed suggests prices would continue to hover around their current levels. The median pending sale in November was $650,000 in Nassau and $515,000 in Suffolk. The Suffolk figure was the lowest mark for pending sale prices since August.

Maria Wilbur, a real estate agent with Keller Williams Realty of Greater Nassau in Garden City, said she has seen fewer sale prices that seem outlandish for a given neighborhood. She represents a mix of buyers and sellers, mostly in Suffolk. While sellers are no longer choosing from a dozen or more buyers, the offers they do get have been stronger, she said.

"I have definitely seen the market become more realistic," Wilbur said. "The offers coming in the last month or two have been closer to what the value of the house should be. They’re not so inflated."

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