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Waterfront homes on LI: What you should know before buying one

Ronnie and Perrin Abbondanza of Islip talk about

Ronnie and Perrin Abbondanza of Islip talk about the factors they considered before buying a home on water in Islip. Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

When Perrin and Ronnie Abbondanza decided to move from a landlocked Miller Place Colonial to a waterfront house in Islip four years ago, it brought back many childhood memories.

Perrin Abbondanza, a financial services professional, grew up in equally landlocked Dix Hills. But her parents had bought a second home on the Massapequa waterfront, where they summered until moving in full time after she graduated from high school.

“It was like summer all year round,” she said of her youthful memories of playing in the bay, which came flooding back four years ago when she and Ronnie, 55, a retired senior vice president of a mortgage bank, relocated to a five-bedroom home on a wide canal in Islip’s Bayberry Point section.

During the pandemic, Abbondanza has been able to get exercise on her paddleboard, and hang out with friends at socially distanced barbecues on the refurbished patio. Fire Island and its restaurants are always a short cruise across the Great South Bay. Before they sold their boat, they used to cruise across the Great South Bay to Fire Island. “There’s always something to do and always something going on,” she said. “You can just walk in your backyard and get on your boat and go.”

Looking to enjoy the pleasures of waterfront living? Buying a bayfront split-level or a converted bungalow on Long Island Sound opens new opportunities for recreation and relaxation as well as ringside seats for eye-opening sunrises and spectacular sunsets.

Long Island’s 1,000-mile-plus shoreline is, of course, noted for its waterfront homes, many of which regularly change hands. Currently, there are 278 listings of waterfront homes for sale in Nassau County, and 453 listings in Suffolk County, according to OneKey MLS.

You don’t necessarily have to spend a million for that waterfront view with affordable waterfront homes in Freeport, Seaford, Babylon, Mastic and other South Shore communities, real estate brokers say.

Mastic, a beachside community in southeastern Brookhaven, “is affordable, and it has access to Moriches Bay inlet,” and fishing grounds for fluke, flounder, sea bass and porgies, said Martin G. Hammer, a broker at H & G Realty in Miller Place.

On the North Shore in Suffolk County, deals can be found in the former beach bungalow communities in Rocky Point and Sound Beach, said Tor Johnson, associate broker at Daniel Gale Sotheby’s International Realty in Stony Brook.

Johnson, who grew up racing sailboats on the Town of Huntington waterfront, said, “The North Shore of Long Island allows for deep water boating in Mount Sinai harbor between Port Jefferson and Rocky Point.”

Houses are also located on the shores of Lake Ronkonkoma in the towns of Islip, Smithtown and Brookhaven, at Lake Panamoka in Ridge and along the banks of the Nissequogue River in Smithtown.

Buying and living in a waterfront home can present challenges, however. There are expenses and health issues usually not associated with living inland.

Here are five things to know as you snap up that waterfront dream house.

You’ll probably pay a premium

Living on the waterfront can be a priceless experience, which may explain why so many buyers are willing to pay more for their maritime real estate. Brokers call the price difference from inland homes “the waterfront premium.”

“Houses on the waterfront are more expensive,” said Elena Galluzzo, associate broker with Signature Premier Properties in Dix Hills. A house on the waterfront can go for several hundred thousand dollars more than a similar house that’s not on the waterfront, Galluzzo said. “If you had two houses on the same block and one on the waterfront was going for $850,000, the exact same house across the street with no waterfront” would sell for $150,000 to $200,000 less, she said.

Statistics bear out Galluzzo’s estimate. Over the last year ending in July, the closed median home price for waterfront homes sold in Nassau County was $630,000, compared with a $540,000 median sold price for nonwaterfront properties, according to OneKey MLS. During the same period in Suffolk County, the closed median home price was $670,000, compared with $410,000 for nonwaterfront homes, according to OneKey MLS.

Bulkhead may need work

Many waterfront homes, especially those on South Shore bays and canals, are kept dry by a bulkhead — a retaining wall that separates the water from the property. Because bulkheads are exposed to the elements year-round, they take a lot of wear and tear. So, before you buy, it’s a god idea to have a marine contractor assess the condition of the bulkhead, said Chris Squeri, executive director of the New York Marine Trades Association in Amityville. “If it’s an older wooden bulkhead, chances are it might need” repair or replacement, Squeri said. Replacement costs vary depending on the location of the bulkhead and the materials it’s made of, but they typically run a minimum of $500 a foot, Squeri said. “Depending on the size of the bulkhead you are looking at a $50,000 investment” to completely replace the bulkhead, he said.

You may need (costly) flood insurance

Flood insurance ranks among the hidden — and generally dreaded — expenses of living on the waterfront.

In areas with a high risk of flooding from weather events such as the recent Tropical Storm Isaias, a flood insurance policy is required. Policies from the National Flood Insurance Program as well as a growing number of private insurers can cost from $3,000 to $8,000 a year, in addition to homeowner’s insurance, said Robert Zabbia, an insurance agent and owner of Zabbia Allstate Agency in Massapequa.

One way around the costly premium is to ask the seller to transfer their flood insurance policy to you. If the policy dates to before 2009 flood maps and rate changes, the premium can be substantially lower, Zabbia said.

You can also lower your flood insurance premium by obtaining an elevation certificate, a document prepared by a licensed surveyor or engineer that identifies the elevation of your home in relation to the Flood Zone established by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA.

Mold can be an unwanted guest

When you live on the waterfront, moisture can become an unwelcome guest. If the interior of the home remains wet for more than two days, mold can develop, which when inhaled can cause allergic reactions and asthma attacks, according to the federal Environmental Protection Agency. For tips on improving air quality, visit nwsdy.li/quality

Sunrise or sunset?

This may sound trivial, but a backyard view of the sun setting over the Sound or bay (or sunrise if you’re an early bird) is an important amenity for many waterfront homebuyers.

It can even add to the resale price.

“Relaxing on your deck after a long day of work, with a cocktail in your hand, you really get to enjoy the beautiful colors the sun throws off,” said Chris Galluzzo, associate broker at Signature Premier Properties in Dix Hills. (Galluzzo and his wife, Elena Galluzzo, watch many a day-ending dazzler from their condominium on Montauk’s Navy Beach.)

Whether you’ll be awed in the morning or evening depends on the direction the house is facing, Chris Galluzzo said.

North Shore homes with a northern exposure see both sunrise and sunset; South Shore homes with a southern exposure enjoy spectacular sunrises.

“If you have a true sunset view for most of the spring, summer and fall season, your home trades for a higher value,” he added.

Waterfront homes on the market

BAYPORT, $1,395,000

Size: Four bedrooms, two bathrooms, one half-bath

Style: Contemporary

Annual taxes: $35,350

Description: Built in 1975, this house has 150 feet of Great South Bay front, and comes with an in-ground pool and a chef’s kitchen.

Listing agent: Barbara Leogrande, Douglas Elliman Real Estate, 631-589-8500

MASSAPEQUA, $879,000

Size: Four bedrooms, 3½ bathrooms

Style: Colonial

Annual taxes: $19,535

Description: Built in 1975, this house has been elevated above FEMA requirements, has been wired for a generator that will be staying, and includes a whole house water filtration system; taxes do not reflect STAR savings and are being grieved.

Listing agent: Louis Scrimenti, EXIT Realty Premier, 516-795-1000

NISSEQUOGUE, $688,000

Size: Four bedrooms, two bathrooms, one half-bath

Style: Cape

Annual taxes: $13,387

Description: Built in 1933, this house adjoins a 27-acre waterfront preserve, is steps to prime Long Island Sound beachfront and has a great room with cathedral ceiling.

Listing agent: Tor Johnson, Daniel Gale Agency Inc., 631-689-6980

SHIRLEY, $519,000

Size: Two bedrooms, two bathrooms

Style: Ranch

Annual taxes: $11,794

Description: Enjoy stunning sunsets all year long in this home, which sits on a 0.23-acre lot, with an unobstructed view of the Great South Bay, which you can enjoy from the large deck with a hot tub.

Listing agent: Emily Sloane, Coldwell Banker M & D Good Life, 631-289-1400

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