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Homebuyers Find Deals in Local Market

Realtors say some homes still hard to sell.

The summer months usually bring a lull to the local housing market, but this year is different.

Buoyed by still-depressed prices and record-low mortgage rates, Three Village real estate experts say business is still humming, despite an anticipated fall-off after the first-time homebuyer tax credit's expiration this spring.

The influx of for-sale homes has abated slightly, though there's still plenty of inventory to go around, and homebuyers on the prowl are met with deals of a lifetime.

"You have all the right ingredients right now: low rates, low prices and lots of inventory to chose from," said Andrea Kozlowsky, manager of Coach Realty in Stony Brook.

Sales at Coach have increased since last year, Kozlowsky said, adding she's optimistic the local housing market is on the upswing.

Prices are still on the decline, which is a boon for homebuyers, but they're no longer freefalling like they were last year, meaning some stability has returned to the marketplace.

"What we're seeing at this point is still a slight decline, but not at the pace it was," said Maddy Byer, manager of the Setauket office of Prudential Douglas Elliman.

Interest rates on mortgages are the lowest they've been in decades – sitting at 4.6 percent for a 30-year fixed-rate loan this week, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association – which could knock hundreds off monthly payments for borrowers.

This means a market that's ripe for the picking with bargains buyers may never find again, and Realtors say there's a slew of people looking to purchase local homes.

Linda Hickey, owner of Hickey & Smith Realtors in Stony Brook, said she has clients holed up in the Holiday Inn Express just waiting to find the perfect house at a bargain rate.

"Usually in August we're coasting because we've done all our sales and people are moving, but this year we're very busy," Hickey said.

But local real estate is still far from the glory days when available houses were scooped up almost instantly.

Hickey said the opposite is true now and homes currently linger on the market for at least a year.

High-priced homes, which are largely concentrated in Old Field, sit for sale the longest because prices and taxes in the area are still quite high, Kozlowsky said.

The cheapest house in Old Field is listed at $799,000 with annual taxes of $18,450, according to the Multiple Listing Service of Long Island, and only two homes in the area are up for less than $1 million.

Most middle-market homes are stuck on the sale block because those buyers have current residences to sell and must qualify for more-stringent mortgage guidelines.

"Mortgages are hard to get. Put that together with someone who needs to sell a house and there's a complicated situation there," Hickey said. "Right now, we only have half of them hooked up as normal."

And though potential buyers are abundant, many are holding off on purchasing in hopes of an even better deal in the future, Hickey added.

Byer said the current state of the market is comparable to pre-housing-boom levels.

"The market is not dead by any means, but I wouldn't consider it brisk either," she said. "I would say it's average."

Realtors said the Three Village area is more resilient than others, and has held up throughout the housing crisis, despite foreclosures and other troubles.

"Our area is a very prime area," Hickey said. Kozlowsky added Three Village doesn't have nearly as many foreclosures as other areas on Long Island.

"We have a very marketable area with Stony Brook University, three hospitals and Renaissance Technologies, which bring in employment, excellent school districts and great scenery," Kozlowsky said. "There's always an influx of people looking for homes here."

Vic Amoroso August 12, 2010 at 03:14 PM
There's no question that our market is active and vibrant, and I agree that it hasn't seemed to follow traditional seasonal patterns. This all suggests that we're entering a new phase in our local housing industry, one based a lot more on rationality than emotion. We've all noticed that buyers have become far more educated and knowledgeable, and the wide availability of online data has not only leveled the proverbial playing field of buyer and seller, but in fact has also created a brand-new arena. While this housing market has proven to be painful for many, it clearly shows us as entering a new phase of "housingnomics," rooted in more reality on the supply side as well as more cautious deliberation on the demand side. Buyers are sure there, but they are displaying more of a "show me" approach. Vic Amoroso, Branch Manager, Daniel Gale Sotheby's Internatioal Realty, Stony Brook

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