Real estate firms say first quarter sales numbers up in 2012

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | This house at 85 Northgate Drive in Baiting Hollow sold for $415,000 March 1.

Buyers are swooping in for real estate deals that may signal a long-anticipated uptick in the local housing market, according to first-quarter real estate reports released earlier this month.

Prudential Douglas Elliman’s Elliman Report shows 94 North Fork sales in the first quarter of 2012, up 34.3 percent from 70 sales in same period last year. The company also said the inventory of houses on the market here plummeted 33.4 percent to 494. Some 742 houses carried “for sale” signs in the first quarter of 2011.

The Elliman Report is calling this the best first quarter for sales in the past five years.

Even so, the median sales price declined 3.2 percent to $418,500.

The Corcoran Group reported 105 sales on the North Fork, up from 90 in the first quarter of 2011, a 17 percent increase.

The reports show slightly different sales numbers because the agencies cover slightly different geographic areas. Corcoran Group reported that the median price rose to $415,000 from $411,000 in last year’s first quarter.

Tom Scalia, owner of Century 21 Albertson Realty in Southold, said it’s been a busy quarter.

“There’s been an awful lot of activity. It was a roller coaster ride,” he said. “Things are moving. Buyers are making decisions. It’s not quite as busy as it was before the market crashed, but it’s getting back to where it was.”

Mr. Scalia said that inventory is “definitely diminishing,” but “it’s better for the market if people don’t put their homes on the market. The inventory gets reduced.

“We’ve done a ton of seasonal rentals this year,” he added. “That’s always good for the local economy.”

Marie Beninati of Beninati Associates in Southold also reported a solid first quarter.

“There’s definitely been tremendous improvement in sales and activity,” she said. “That portends for some good things going forward.”

Ms. Beninati said she’s seeing the most activity at the low end, which may be depressing the median price.

“It brings the average down if more people are buying in the lower end,” she said, adding that, despite the buyer’s market, she is seeing multiple offers on low-end houses. “It’s more frequent than anyone would even imagine,” she said of the multiple offers.

“It’s still a buyer’s market, no question about it. Everyone’s looking for a steal. But the multiple offers make for a dichotomy. We’re on the cusp of it becoming more in favor of the seller. As there’s less inventory on the market, the seller can call for a higher price.”

Suffolk Research Services, a private real estate research firm based in Hampton Bays, reported more gloomy sales price figures but a sharp rise in the number of sales. The company said that in Riverhead Town, the median sales price dropped 15.6 percent from the first quarter of 2011, to $287,000, while Southold median prices dropped 8.2 percent to $404,000.

SRS reported 74 sales in Southold in the first quarter, up from 58 last year. In Riverhead, 66 properties changed hands, up from 56.

“These graphs show a picture of a depressed market for the most recent four years,” said SRS president George Simpson. “The real estate market on the East End isn’t like the good old days.”

SRS reported a 47.2 percent increase in median price on Shelter Island, from $540,000 in the first quarter of 2011 to $795,000 this year. Shelter Island sales are often statistically skewed based on the small number of transactions. SRS reported eight sales on Shelter Island this quarter, down from 14 in the first quarter of 2011. There were 16 sales on Shelter Island in the first quarter of 2010, with a median price of $1.4 million.

Town & Country Real Estate reported a 40 percent increase in North Fork home sales. In some cases, sales numbers were more than double last year’s in all North Fork hamlets except Mattituck.

The firm noted 13 sales in Orient, Greenport and East Marion, up from six in the first quarter of 2011. The median price in Orient declined from $430,000 to $379,000, the company said. Meanwhile, the median price in Southold, Peconic and New Suffolk rose from $406,500 to $435,000, with 21 sales reported, up from 13 in the first quarter of 2011.

Jamesport saw 15 sales, up from 10 the prior first quarter. The median price in Jamesport increased from $364,500 to $386,000.
Mattituck held steady at 21 sales, although the median price dropped 7.78 percent to $415,000.

Town & Country CEO Judi Desiderio said the report “clearly demonstrates forward motion and a new trend as the investment opportunities on the North Fork are attracting customers from as far away as France and as near as Manhattan. As a continued emerging market, the future for the North Fork is, far and away, going to outshine the past.”

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