The Year in Real Estate 2014: A market ‘on fire’

12/28/2014 4:00 PM |
We really like the kitchen of this Riverhead on the market  with an asking price of $300,000.

The kitchen of a Riverhead home on the market with an asking price of $300,000.

A “follow-through.” A “major recovery.” A market “on fire.”

Whatever you want to call it, North Fork’s real estate agents seem to agree: 2014 was a strong year that built on the successful bounce-back that began two years ago.

And even into December, that market was still surging. 

“I feel like I can’t breathe — in a good way,” said Sheri Winter Clarry, a licensed real estate broker with Corcoran in Southold. “This year’s been pretty crazy.”

Ms. Clarry said a combination of low prices and low interest rates has been driving the North Fork’s real estate market.

“In the end, we’re still an undervalued market,” she said. That market, she added, is still primarily made up of people buying second homes.

“People are deciding to put their discretionary income into real estate,” she said. “It’s a great time to buy, especially when it’s cold out. Then you can be in by spring.”

Median home prices in Southold jumped from $429,000 in last year’s third quarter to $480,000 this year, according to real estate tracking firm Suffolk Research Service, though across the border in Riverhead, prices fell slightly from $350,000 to about $339,000.

Valerie Goode, owner of Colony Realty in Jamesport, agreed that “the second-home market has been strong ever since the price dip” in 2008.

“That’s really made us different than any other place on Long Island,” she said. “It’s keeping us as a destination.”

Ms. Goode cited areas like western Long Island, New York City, New Jersey and Connecticut as places where buyers have been coming from. The result has been a “perky” market throughout the year, she said.

Slowly rising prices have helped by keeping homes properly valued despite an increase in demand and a waning supply, Ms. Goode said.

“When prices rise it never goes fast,” she added. “It’s always subtle.”

The locations of the properties for sale, many of which are situated on the waterfront or in the North Fork’s quiet neighborhoods, have also lured buyers to the area.

“We have great pricing and great properties,” Ms. Goode said.

John Nickles Jr. of Lewis & Nickles in Southold said 2014 feels like a “follow-through” year to 2013’s strong numbers.

“Typically, nobody wants to be the first one to buy after a down market,” he said. In 2013, many of those buyers made their move.

“This year was the year when the less-aggressive people said, ‘Now is the time to buy again,’<\!q>” he said.

Marie Beninati of Beninati Associates in Southold said that the market has been “excellent.” The holiday season tends to be quieter, she said, but this year people are still calling her office.

“They want to come see houses,” she said.

Ms. Beninati attributes the appeal of the North Fork to its “natural beauty.”

“And yet it’s still tranquil. It’s still peaceful,” she said. “We’re not overrun by traffic like it is on the South Fork. We don’t have the high-speed social stuff that’s happening there. [People] go to the Hamptons for the scene. They come here to relax and have a better quality of life.”

Ms. Beninati said that roughly 80 percent of her customers are second-home buyers; many of them hope to eventually move out of their current homes and make the North Fork their primary residence.

“Almost everyone that I know, that is their plan,” she said. “Their intention is to be here when they retire.”

But Ms. Beninati noted that keeping up with demand when there’s a lack of inventory is her biggest concern. Indeed, the number of homes sold across the East End dropped slightly, from 860 in the third quarter of 2013 to 853 this year, according to Suffolk Research Service figures.

“We don’t have big tracks of land being developed for the community,” she said. Still, there may be dozens of properties that didn’t sell during the housing crisis that are waiting to be put back on the market, Ms. Beninati added.

“So many people put their homes on the market and didn’t sell because there was a price that they wanted and there was no way they were going to take a big hit,” she said.

If those homes do come back on the market, Ms. Beninati is predicting a potential explosion of sales in 2015.

“There is something happening here on the North Fork,” she said. “And we’re poised for a spectacular year.”

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