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Median home price drops 18.2% in Nassau, western Suffolk

A collection of real estate signs in Miami

A collection of real estate signs in Miami tell the story of the housing market in 2009. Credit: Getty Images Photo

Median home prices for Nassau and western Suffolk fell 18.2 percent in the second quarter when compared with the same period a year ago - the sharpest drop since the subprime market collapsed in the fall of 2007, according to reports due out Thursday.

The median sales price for the second quarter was $360,000, compared with $439,841 the same quarter last year, the data show. Year-ago comparisons indicate price changes were flat in the fall of 2007 before prices began falling by single-, then double-digit percentages, figures show.

"What we're seeing is an accelerating rate of decline," said Jonathan Miller, head of Manhattan-based Miller Samuel appraisal firm, commissioned by Prudential Douglas Elliman Real Estate to compile reports.

That trend is "a little bit of a concern," he said, because it forecasts a longer road to housing market recovery than many have predicted.

Also, the home sales market is a "lagging indicator" of the economy, because people need jobs and credit to buy real estate, and a "leading indicator," the unemployment rate, shows little signs of recovery, Miller said.

The national 9.5 percent unemployment rate is at a 26-year high.

In the Hamptons and North Fork, the second-quarter median closing price was $680,000, a 16.8 percent drop from a year ago, the report said. Prices there have fallen, but not by greater percentages as they have for the rest of Long Island, Miller said.

Another "linchpin" of the market's health is number of closings, Miller said, and the data reflect two forces at work.

Closings rose from the first quarter to the second, which is prime house-hunting season - a 52.7 percent jump in the Hamptons / North Fork market and 37.7 percent hike for the rest of Long Island, the reports said. "It's a release of pent-up demand," Miller said.

Dottie Herman, Prudential's president and chief executive, said second-quarter closings look strong because the previous quarter was weak, reflecting the small number of contracts made late last year due to the financial meltdown.

Compared with a year ago, second-quarter closings dropped by 43.3 percent in the Hamptons / North Fork and 37.7 percent for the rest of Long Island, according to the data. "We're still looking at a weak economy and a weak housing market," Miller said.

Herman said the number of contracts is growing: "The demand of people buying, especially in the lower prices, is really strong."

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