Home-buying can be stressful for anyone. But for buyers shopping at the more affordable end of the North Fork price spectrum – say, under $300,000 – a slim inventory and a high-demand area can make the process even harder.
So what can one expect to find?
For one, competition.
“It’s a very popular slot price-wise,” said Pat Wilson with Colony Realty in Jamesport.
Second, be prepared to get your hands dirty.
“I would imagine there would be some work that would need to be done,” said Sheri Winter Clarry of The Corcoran Group in Southold .
And third, understand that the house itself will likely be somewhat modest — but it will be yours.
“You’ll find a fairly decent starting house,” said Patrick Fedun with Fedun Real Estate in Aquebogue.
In addition to a North Fork market that’s inherently competitive due to its location, real estate overall appears to be on the rebound, making homes in the $300,000 area tough to come by.
Mr. Fedun added that, so far this year, “we’re pretty much back to normal with what’s going on with sales. If you look at what was going on five years ago, it’s pretty much the same.”
This year’s numbers to date tend to confirm this.
According to Suffolk Research Service, a real estate data tracking firm, median home values bottomed out in Southold Town in 2012, with a median price of $435,000 for single-family homes. Through July of this year, that median has risen to $456,000. The 2009 median price was $462,500.
The number of sales in the $150,000 to $300,000 range has picked up as well, particularly since the beginning of 2012.
Last year, 59 homes in that range were sold in Southold Town, compared to 36 in 2011. Through mid-August 2013, 36 homes priced at or under $300,000 had been sold.
“We’re seeing the bottom come up,” said Thomas McCarthy of Thomas J. McCarthy Real Estate in Southold. On the North Fork, he added, converted cottages or homes on a “real postage stamp lot” or on main roads would be included in the limited inventory buyers can expect to find. Mr. McCarthy has one listing he believes will sell soon that’s priced at just over $300,000 and located directly on Route 48.
Currently, only 11 single-family homes are on the market in Southold Town for under $300,000. Due to a limited inventory, Corcoran’s Barry Novick said he wouldn’t consider anything under $325,000 in the entry-level category. Anything less, and a homeowner can likely expect to be putting money back into the home upon purchase, increasing the overall investment.
For first-time buyers – those most likely to be exploring the lower end of the market — Suffolk County recently jump-started a program that offers qualified individuals up to $14,000 in down payment assistance on homes costing up to $333,000. Applicants have until the end of October to apply; as of Sept. 19 — less than three weeks after the county started taking applications — 64 people had applied. In total, the county is offering $500,000 in down payment assistance.
In the meantime, interest rates have risen over a full percentage point from an all-time low of 3.38 percent about a year ago.
Aidan Wood, senior vice president with Bridgehampton National Bank, said he’s noticed more movement in purchases on the East End this year, as refinancing has slowed with rising interest rates.
Mr. Fedun echoed Mr. Wood’s sentiments.
“We’ve seen a good jump in [purchasing] interest because interest rates have gone up,” he said. “It’s encouraged people to buy a little bit. We’ll see where it goes.”