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LI home closing prices dropping at slower pace

Long Island's median home closing price was $360,200 last month, a 6.4 percent drop from $385,000 a year ago, according to the Multiple Listing Service of Long Island.

But it's the smallest year-ago drop since the September meltdown last year led to double-digit tumbles. The slower pace of price declines buttresses on-the-ground views that the housing market is starting to reach an even keel.

October's closing price was a 1.3 percent dip from September's $365,000 figure, according to numbers from the group, which also covers Queens.

October saw another marker reached, just before the federal first-time home buyers' tax credit was initially set to expire on Nov. 30.

The tax credit, low mortgage rates and more affordable prices drove the number of contracts past the 3,000 mark, to 3,061 in October, the report said.

That has happened only 19 times since 1996, and four of those times were in the past six months, the trade group said. The number of contracts was a 46.6 percent jump over the 2,089 year-ago figure, the group said.

The federal tax credit was extended last week. The new deadlines are April 30 for contracts to be signed and June 30 for closings.

Locally, last month's closings shot up 14 percent from a year ago, to 2,610.

But despite the tax credit and other home-buying attractions, closings so far this year have not matched last year's.

There have been 19,101 closings in the first 10 months of this year, compared to 19,987 for the same period last year, a 4 percent drop, figures show.

The for-sale inventory in October fell to 10.2 months, compared to 16.9 months a year ago, the MLS reported.

That's 31,243 listings last month compared to 35,221 a year ago, the report said.

Real estate veterans see that as another sign of recovery, but agents also have said many homeowners have refrained from listing their properties if they don't have an immediate reason to leave, such as relocating for a job.

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