Has the North Fork’s recovering housing market finally turned a corner? According to local real estate brokers and data compiled by county research consultants, it’s now creeping back up, however slowly.
“Last year, things picked up and we’re holding our own this year,” said John Bagshaw, owner of Bagshaw Real Estate in Riverhead. “Things have gotten better now. There are more sales out there and the supply has come down some. It’s not the two-year backlog that we had.”
For the first time since the housing crisis struck in 2007, home values have risen across the North Fork and Shelter Island.
On Shelter Island, properties rebounded the most from 2012 to 2013, according to data compiled by Suffolk Research Service. Median home values rose 18.1 percent and reached $750,000 in 2013, according to statistics.
While those homes retained the highest value in the area, the median value of Shelter Island homes still remains $200,000 below what they were worth just before the housing crisis hit.
Southold Town properties had the next highest value, increasing by 5.6 percent to a median price of $459,500 in 2013. Riverhead values grew by 7.8 percent to reach $345,000, according to the data.
But it’s not unusual for Riverhead home values to lag behind those farther east, said Kristen Rishe, principal broker and owner of North Fork Real Estate in Cutchogue.
“That’s always the way it’s been historically,” she said. “I think the big thing between Riverhead and Southold Town is the taxes. People have been coming to Southold for the lower taxes.”
Despite the increase in median home values, both Southold and Riverhead median home values lagged behind the market price from 2007. Median values in all three areas had dipped or held steady the prior two years, according to the data.
Ms. Rishe, an Orient native, said the slow growth in home values masks a rising number of home sales, which points to a stronger market.
“As long as the inventory moves, that’s a good thing,” she said. “If the prices get too crazy high, that locks some people out of the market … There hasn’t been huge increases but there haven’t been huge decreases.”
Lewis & Nickles Real Estate co-owner John Nickles said Southold Town didn’t have a lot of new homes or foreclosures when the housing bubble burst.
“We were spared the really big kick in the pants,” he said. But while areas devastated by the recession may have bounced back in the years since, Southold’s path out of the crisis has been plodding at times.
“The further you stretch the rubber band, the farther it snaps back,” he said. “We’re sort of shifting into more of a seller’s market, but I’m noticing the inventory is creeping back up again.”
Real estate agents said 2014 didn’t get off to a strong start, thanks in part to the harsh winter they said dragged down sales. But most have reported seeing buyers and sellers returning to the market with the improving weather.
“With the weather, the winter was pretty slow,” said Erica McKenzie, vice president of sales at Andrew Stype Real Estate in Mattituck. “Now we’ve definitely seen an uptick in sales, an uptick in showings, an uptick in listings.”
Ms. McKenzie said she expects to see more buyers purchasing land to build new houses on the North Fork, something that might boost the local construction industry. She also predicts that home values will continue to rise through 2014.
“They’re on their way back, but they’re not there,” she said. “Everything is slowly coming back.”
Mr. Bagshaw said that while sales have rebounded within Riverhead Town and that waterfront or higher priced homes are selling, prices in the lower half of the market haven’t improved much.
“The local stuff in and around the towns, they’re still down and haven’t rebounded as much,” he said. It’s the second-home market that’s really pulling the market up, he added.
Ms. Rishe said she expects the second-home market to continue to grow as the North Fork becomes more of a summer and fall tourist destination.
“I think it’s just becoming more and more known,” she said. “How can it not be? It’s just beautiful out here.”
This is article was printed in the northforker Real Estate magazine, a supplement in the Aug. 7 Suffolk Times.