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LI home prices, sales higher in January

The number of homes under contract increased year

The number of homes under contract increased year over year, up 28 percent in Nassau, 29 percent in Suffolk. This sale sign is for a house in Ridge. (Jan. 23, 2013) Credit: Randee Daddona

Long Island's housing market got a boost in January, as home buyers bounced back from delays caused by last year's storms and the holidays.

The median price of a home in Nassau County was $400,000, up 3.8 percent compared to the previous January, the Multiple Listing Service of Long Island reported Tuesday. The number of sales rose nearly 1 percent, to 635.

In Suffolk County, last month's median price of $310,000 marked a 6.9 percent gain over January 2012. There were 785 home sales, up 15.3 percent. The median is the midpoint in a series of numbers.

"There's a lot of pent-up demand, between everybody recovering from Sandy and then going straight into the holiday season," said Cynthia McKenna, managing broker at Keller Williams Realty in Hauppauge.

Superstorm Sandy, which struck on Oct. 29, canceled or delayed many home sales until December or January as lenders demanded new appraisals.

The number of pending sales rose sharply last month. In Nassau County, 727 homes went into contract, up 28 percent year over year.

Suffolk County home buyers signed 765 contracts last month, up 20.1 percent over the previous January.

The supply of homes for sale fell in January, though it still exceeds the six- to eight-month inventory that brokers say makes for a healthy housing market. At last month's sales pace it would take about 10 months to sell all available homes in Nassau, down from 14 months a year before. It would take just over a year in Suffolk, down from almost 17 months the previous January.

The number of short sales -- in which homeowners, with bank approval, sell for less than their outstanding mortgage debt -- appears to be rising, said Joe Moshé, owner of Plainview-based Charles Rutenberg Realty. Lenders have issued new guidelines for getting such sales approved, he said.

The housing market now has "a constant heart rate," due in part to home sellers agreeing to drop prices, said Camille Marra-Merollo, a broker with RE/MAX Southshore Realty in Valley Stream: "They're becoming much more realistic."

The impact of Sandy is likely to be short-lived, as long as such devastating storms remain rare, she said.

"If they become more frequent, you will see, on the south shore of Long Island, people just bailing," she said.

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