House with sold sign in front. Real estate. Selling a...

House with sold sign in front. Real estate. Selling a house. iStockphoto.com. Credit: Photo by iStockphoto.com

Home closing prices on Long Island dropped again last month, even as the number of sales shot up from a year ago, the Multiple Listing Service of Long Island reported Friday.

Closings increased 36 percent in Nassau, or 646 homes sold compared with 475 a year ago, and 23 percent in Suffolk, or 709 sold compared with 577 a year ago, the trade group said.

"The level of buying activity is quite strong, and if it continues as we anticipate, it will produce a very robust spring sales season," said Frank Dell'Accio, MLSLI president.

The heavier buying reflects a lot of factors. For one thing, house hunters were practically paralyzed at this time last year, with the nation in shock after the Wall Street meltdown. A year ago, the first-time home buyers' tax credit had barely gone into effect, but now house hunters are rushing to sign contracts before an April 30 deadline. Also, interest rates are near historic lows but are rising.

And spring - prime buying season - has arrived.

Although sales have been going up, a trend that should be driving up prices, March's median closing price of $350,000 was a 1.9 percent decrease from a year ago and a 1.2 percent dip from February, said MLSLI, which also covers Queens.

"The way you have to look at it is the increase in demand reduces the decline" in price, said Manhattan-based appraiser Jonathan Miller. Also, sales have been shifting to entry-level and lower-priced homes, skewing closing prices, he said.

Despite some brisk activity, real estate agents are nervous about the post-tax-credit- and post-federal-intervention market.

One concern is whether the pool of buyers will dwindle. Said Miller, "There are only so many first-time buyers."

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