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LI home sales fell in March, but prices up

The National Association of Realtors said Thursday, May

The National Association of Realtors said Thursday, May 22, 2014, that U.S. home sales rose 1.3 percent from March to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.65 million. Credit: AP

Long Island's housing market slowed last month, as late-winter storms kept buyers at home.

In Nassau County, the number of closed sales fell by nearly 12 percent compared to the previous March, to 587, according to a report released Friday by the Multiple Listing Service of Long Island.

Suffolk County sales fell by almost 5 percent year over year, to 707. Those figures typically reflect contracts that were signed two to three months before.

The median closed sale price rose year-over-year by nearly 2 percent in both counties, to $387,000 in Nassau and $305,000 in Suffolk.

"It's what you can expect in any bad winter," said L.P. Finn, chief operating officer of Coach Realtors in Northport. But with the weather finally growing warmer, and with mortgage interest rates still low, he said, "more homes are coming to market; you're seeing a pent-up demand."

The average interest rate for a fixed-rate, 30-year mortgage was 4.34 percent this week, up about 0.9 percentage points compared to the year-ago period, mortgage giant Freddie Mac reported.

Early last year many homeowners hit hard by superstorm Sandy listed their damaged homes at low prices, which led to a flurry of sales, said Maria Aramanda, owner of Gull Realty in Long Beach.

The storm still weighs on the market, with homeowners facing higher flood insurance rates and some homeowners still awaiting storm recovery aid to help them rebuild, Aramanda said.

However, she said, fewer buyers seem worried about a repeat of the Oct. 29, 2012, disaster.

"A lot of people are thinking it's a one-time thing and it's not going to happen to us again," she said.

Last month's housing market favored buyers, by one measure. In Nassau County it would take 11.2 months to sell all listed homes at the current pace of sales, and in Suffolk County it would take 13.5 months. A balanced real estate market has a six- to eight-month supply of homes, according to brokers.

Across the Island there were 16,150 homes listed for sale last month, roughly unchanged from the previous March.

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