Long Island home prices were nearly flat last month, despite an end-of-year uptick in sales activity.
Nassau County homes sold for a median price of $407,000 in December, up 1.8 percent from the same period in 2012, according to a report released Monday by the Multiple Listing Service of Long Island. Home prices hit their lowest monthly level since June, when the median price was $425,000.
In Suffolk County, the typical home sold for $307,000 last month, down 1.7 percent from the previous December. That marked the lowest monthly price since May, when homes sold for a median price of $315,000.
The devastation caused by Sandy "continues to drag down our aggregate prices," especially below Merrick Road along the South Shore, said Lisa Strollo, a real estate agent with Century 21 Prevete Bastone in Massapequa. The storm made landfall on Oct. 29, 2012.
Even storm-damaged homes that have been repaired are taking price cuts of at least $50,000 -- or more than $250,000 for homes in the million-dollar price range -- largely due to the high cost of flood insurance, Strollo said. In especially hard-hit communities such as Long Beach, it will take another eight to 12 months to clear the storm-damaged homes from the market, she predicted.
By contrast, she said, prices for homes outside the flood plain are rising about 10 percent, she said. In those areas, she said, buyers have "lost a lot of properties to bidding wars, and they're more willing to come up to asking price, or over asking price."
Across the Island, 2,024 homes were sold last month, a year-over-year rise of 12.4 percent. Throughout last year, 22,642 Long Island homes changed hands, an increase of 17 percent over the number sold in 2012.
Many first-time buyers are eager to lock in mortgage interest rates that are still low by historic standards, said Nava Mitnick, an agent with Daniel Gale Sotheby's International Realty in Port Washington.
The average interest rate for a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage was 4.51 percent last week, up from 3.4 percent a year before, mortgage giant Freddie Mac reported.
For now, Mitnick said, low rates are creating a "very competitive market," especially for properties under about $1.5 million. But a significant rise in rates would push prices down, she said.
In Nassau County, there were 5,421 homes on the market, down 12 percent from a year before. In Suffolk County, sellers listed 8,343 homes, 7 percent fewer than the previous December.
At the current pace of sales, it would take 5.7 months to sell all the homes listed in Nassau and 7.8 months to sell all those in Suffolk. A housing market balanced between buyers and sellers has a six- to eight-month supply of homes, according to brokers.