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Home sales on the Island take a step toward normalcy

The latest homes-sales data for Long Island shows the region might be one step closer to what many might consider nirvana nowadays: normalcy.

In the Hamptons, 479 closings in the second quarter represented a 107 percent jump from a year ago as prices stabilized on most of the Island compared with the real estate roller coaster of the past several years, said a report commissioned by Prudential Douglas Elliman Real Estate.

What led sales in the summer playgrounds were homes under a million dollars and ones that would have gone for much more during the boom. The off-peak Hamptons prices took the allure out of the North Fork, hot a year ago as a less costly alternative.

The Hamptons' $900,000 median closing price was a 0.9 percent dip from the first quarter but a 17 percent jump from a year ago as more deals closed on the high end, where sales had been stagnating, said Jonathan Miller, head of Miller Samuel, the Manhattan appraisal firm that compiled the report.

"We're seeing a more normal distribution of low- to high-end of sales, something we haven't seen like in a year and a half," he said. "It's not that we're seeing a lot of sales activity. We're seeing a more normal level sales activity. . . . It also illustrates how dire the market was a year ago. You're coming from such an unusually low place."

On the Island the median closing price outside the North Fork and Hamptons was $360,000, unchanged from a year ago and a 3 percent increase from the first quarter, Miller Samuel calculated.

But while prices and closings generally retreated from the unpredictable downswings of the past few years, the Island inventory of homes for sale outside the Hamptons and North Fork went up 0.6 percent from a year ago and 13 percent from the first quarter, the report said.

The jump comes despite listings removed from the market by buyers seeking the home buyers tax credit. The credit required contracts to be signed by April 30 and helped boost closings 49 percent from a year ago and 55 percent from the first quarter, according to the data.

But again, Miller sees that as a sort of normalcy, because homeowners got hope. Sellers who had pulled homes off the market began relisting when they saw the tax credit expand the pool of buyers, he said.

The discounts off listing prices weren't as big because buyers who wanted the tax credit had less time to bargain, Miller said. "What we've seen since the beginning of the year is a general change in sentiment,'' he said. "Buyers are more likely to bypass properties . . . that are overpriced."

It's the same in the Hamptons, where Prudential's manager, Paul Brennan, said more than half of the luxury homes for sale were bought in the boom.

Owners still look for a profit, he said, but buyers think the worst is yet to come: "We're not consummating deals, but there are lots of offers."

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