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Year in Real Estate 2016: More stable, safer market


Housing prices in Southold Town have rebounded to the highs hit just before the housing crisis of nearly 10 years ago, and prices in Riverhead and Shelter Island Towns are also trending upwards.

But real estate agents say the market isn’t the same as in the pre-crisis days, when homes sold quickly for exorbitant prices. Instead, they say, it’s a more stable — and ultimately safer — market fueled by strong interest, low inventory and much more educated buyers.

“What happens is if prices stay stable and don’t go through the roof, you keep more people in the market,” said Kristen Rishe of North Fork Real Estate. “I think it’s definitely a better mind-set.”

In Southold, the median home price jumped to $525,000 so far for 2016, according to Suffolk Research Service. That’s the same level recorded in 2007, before the housing market crash. Median prices then fell to a low of $435,000 in 2012 before steadily creeping back up. This year marked the fourth straight year of growth in Southold.

Meanwhile, the median single-family home price in Riverhead Town reached $370,000 in 2016, still trending upward but far from the $432,500 high recorded in 2007. Shelter Island rebounded from a slight dip in 2015 to post a median home price of $825,000 — a 6.45 percent increase.

In interviews at the end of 2016, real estate agents said the year had been a busy one.

“Last year was an amazing year but this year was even busier,” said Sheri Winter Clarry of the Corcoran Group. “If a house doesn’t go right away and then there’s been price reductions, it becomes a frenzy. The [buyer] is strongly dictating where the market should be.”

Ms. Rishe said the market hadn’t been “crazy,” but was certainly strong. Both buyers and sellers had leverage, she said; a lack of houses on the market has caused prices to rise, but consumer awareness has been keeping the overall price in check.

“Anything priced well will sell quickly,” she said. “It’s not the norm of bidding wars yet.”

In Southold Town, she said, Greenport Village is “super crazy hot” right now and Orient is also a quickly moving market. This year, activity in South Jamesport — which she described as a “quaint little area” — has also picked up.

Ms. Clarry said the entire North Fork was abuzz with activity this year.

“You can’t go wrong in any town,” she said. “I just feel like the North Fork itself is coming into its own.”

In Riverhead, John Bagshaw of Bagshaw Realty also sees a balanced ecosystem, but one where affordable homes are quickly moving off the market.

“The past two years have definitely been an improvement,” he said.

Still, the current market is nowhere near the craze of the housing bubble where, he said, “the inventory was so low, somebody would walk in the door … we could go out and show them two or three homes and if they didn’t have an offer that home was gone.”

Both Mr. Bagshaw and Ms. Rishe said online tools have helped buyers get fair prices for homes.

“We’ve always been a second-home market so it’s always been a ‘want,’ not a ‘need,’ ” Ms. Rishe said. “We’ve seen people take longer decisions.”

Rising interest rates and some concern raised by a contentious presidential election have caused some trepidation among buyers — though real estate agents said the concerns were unfounded and predicted a similar market in 2017.

“We’ve had a lot of conversations with people asking what things are going to happen,” Ms. Rishe said, noting that some people worried about the effect of a Donald Trump presidency on the housing market. She was not concerned, noting the president-elect had made his money in real estate and that any actions he takes likely wouldn’t affect the local market much.

“Stay calm and keep buying or selling, if that’s what you need to do,” she said.

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