The North Fork’s recovering real estate market still has a ways to go to make up for the losses that occurred during the housing market crash in 2007.
But that doesn’t mean the market is winding down. Quite the opposite, if you ask the North Fork realtors and real estate agents. Now, they say, is the perfect time for both buyers and sellers as the market slowly but steadily improves thanks to investors and second-home buyers.
“I think we’re in a very balanced market,” said Carol Szynaka, an East End real estate manager at Daniel Gale Sotheby’s International Realty. “I don’t think anybody is controlling the market. I think if you price your house properly you’ll get demand, but no one’s going to overpay these days.”
As in 2013, the Shelter Island market gained the most ground over the previous year, according to year-end data compiled by Suffolk Research Service, a research firm that serves real estate brokers.
Median home values on Shelter Island rose 14.66 percent in 2014 to $860,000, the highest reported median home value on the island since 2008, when median values hit $940,000. Median values there had peaked in 2007 at $950,000, just before the housing bubble burst.
Median home values also rallied in Southold Town, where they rose by 6.63 percent to a 2014 median of $490,000. That increase continued the trend from 2013, during which housing prices rose by 5.63 percent.
“It’s definitely not as frenetic as it was [before the housing market crash],” Szynaka said. “But generally speaking, I think that there’s more activity. There’s more activity in all the offices across the board.”
That may not seem to hold true for Riverhead Town residential properties, which on the whole lost value, according to the SRS data. Median values in Riverhead dropped by about 6.7 percent to land at $322,000, nearly erasing the gains made in 2013, according to the data.
Riverhead properties might be less attractive to buyers because tax rates are generally higher in Riverhead Town, said Marie Beninati, owner/broker at Beninati Associates.
“If you’re looking at a mid-priced home the taxes become more important to the buyer on a monthly basis,” she said.
Beninati said the incentives of this real estate market — namely, low interest rates — make this a good market for potential homeowners to get into. But since the inventory of residential properties is so low, good properties are selling fast — if priced correctly.
“We’ve been plagued by the same things we’ve been plagued by in year’s past and that is not enough inventory. We don’t have enough selection for the buyers,” she said. “We would have more transactions if we had more inventory.”
The North Fork is also attractive to people living in Brooklyn and Manhattan because it’s close enough to the city yet offers a true escape.
And your dollar goes a lot further than it would in the Hamptons.
“It’s comparatively affordable,” Beninati said. “And people perceive the North Fork as more family oriented. We don’t have clubs, we don’t have the traffic. We don’t have the kinds of things that disrupt the tranquility here.”
But the increased attention on the North Fork isn’t necessarily a good thing for all home buyers, said Valerie Goode, owner of Colony Realty. While the whole market is “gaining momentum,” it’s the second-home owners and property investors who are flooding the market with all-cash deals.
“Investors are heavily in the entry level [housing],” she said. “That makes it harder for first-home buyers.”
Yet she’s more optimistic about Riverhead’s housing market, saying the dip in home value there may be due to “distressed” properties from the housing crash finally selling at low prices.
“It takes a lot of time for these properties to finally foreclose,” Goode said.
However, the market overall is slowly heading up.
“It’s never fast. It’s never like wildfire,” she said. “It’s so subtle you hardly notice it.”
The key for sellers in today’s market is pricing, she said.
“There is a sweet spot,” Goode said. “When you hit it you’re in the zone … Sometimes it’s some sellers are determined to get a certain amount and they’re willing to wait that out. Other sellers are ready to sell yesterday.”
Those sellers are seeing bidding wars for their properties, she said, noting three recent competitions over properties in a single week.
“Obviously those properties were in the sweet spot and they went [fast],” she said.
Buyers, Goode said, can’t afford to wait.
“You need to act,” she said. “You’ve got to absolutely move. Don’t lose a day here or a day there.”