Real Estate: Volume up, prices down last quarter

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | A house under contract on Ostrander Avenue in Riverhead. Home sales were up in the third quarter this year, but the median sale price dropped.

Single-family home sales for the third quarter of 2013 were back to their pre-recession levels in Riverhead, numbers show, though the median price was down more than 10 percent compared to the same period last year.

According to data provided by Suffolk Research Services, 122 single-family homes in Riverhead sold from July through September. That was the most sold in those months since 2006, when 149 homes sold in the area, and far above the 88 homes sold last year. However the quarter’s median home sales price dropped from $355,000 in 2012 to $350,000 this year.

The trend is similar across the East End, numbers show, reflecting an active market where many people who have been waiting to buy or sell are finally making the move.

“It means there’s good value out there,” said Valerie Goode, owner of Colony Realty in Jamesport. “People who were waiting for their homes to sell two years ago are now ready-to-go consumers.”

Across the five East End towns, the volume of single-family home sales jumped 35 percent in the third quarter, from 635 a year ago to 860 this year. Median prices, meanwhile, dropped 3.9 percent from 2012 to $639,000 — and far below a third-quarter high of $717,000 in 2007.

Shelter Island was the only town to see an increase in the median sales price, which rose 21 percent to $760,000 over 22 sales. Southampton took the quarter’s biggest hit, dropping 13 percent from $900,000 to $780,000 over 371 transactions.

In Southold, the third-quarter median sales price fell from $480,000 last year to $429,000, a drop of over 10 percent. As in Riverhead, however, the number of transactions for the period was up in Southold, from 104 in 2012 to 127 this year.

Carol Tintle, regional manager with Daniel Gale Sotheby’s, said that she’s seen home sale prices increase recently, especially at the upper and lower ends of the market.

“The higher and lower ends are definitely selling,” she said. “The problems are the middle of the road, unless it’s very special. Until some homes get reduced to the price they should be, there is so much on the market, they may not sell.”

A quarterly report released by real estate firm Prudential Douglas Elliman noted that median prices on the high end were, on the whole down, across the North Fork. The median home price in the fifth and highest quintile, the report states, was $870,000, down 20 percent compared to last year. But the lowest quintile showed a 9.1 percent gain, to $257,500.

Julia Robins, an associate with Century 21 Albertson Realty in Greenport, suspected that an overall median price dip would be more reflective of the higher end, as she’s seen more sales volume on the whole.

“Sales activity is fabulous,” she said. “And it’s sustained into the fall. If there is any red in the median sales price, it’s probably the upper end.”

No agents reported concern about an increase in interest rates over the last six months, as a first-quarter average of about 3.4 percent on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage is expected to give way to about a 4.3 percent rate in the coming quarter, according to Freddie Mac economist Frank Nothaft.

The $46 million total for third-quarter single-family home sales reported in Riverhead was the town’s highest since 2007, when the total reported was $47 million.

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