Slow Start for Property Sales in 2011

Real estate a bit hazy
The East End real estate picture for the first quarter of 2011 was a bit hazy. David E. Rattray

    Real estate endured a significant drop-off on the East End in the first quarter of 2011, compared to the same period last year, data from two sources show.

    George R. Simpson, president of Suffolk Research Service, said three market indicators — median price, unit sales, and dollar sales — all declined in the first quarter of this year. Prices fell in Southampton, East Hampton, Shelter Island, and Southhold Towns, rising only in Riverhead.

    Though in Southampton’s case, the decline in median prices was just 8.4 percent, from $850,000 to $779,000, the median sales price on a single-family house plummeted in East Hampton by almost 31 percent, from $1.15 million to $795,000. Dollar sales in East Hampton similarly nose-dived by almost 54 percent from this time last year.

    Data from Town and Country Real Estate, one of the firms whose internal numbers have been released, showed a similar trend, with East Hampton Village bearing the most notable brunt of the drop-off. The number of trades there tanked from 17 in the first quarter last year to just 6 this year.

    Town and Country suggested the massive snowfall on the East End has hurt sales this winter. Mr. Simpson, reached by phone to follow up on his report, said foreclosures were depressing prices in surrounding neighborhoods.

    Town and Country found that Noyac and North Haven fared better than the rest of the area, with all leading indicators showing big gains, though Suffolk Research Service did not include numbers for a comparable geographic area to verify that finding.

    On the other hand, though it does not release internal quarterly numbers, Sotheby’s International Realty experienced a relatively strong first quarter, its vice president and brokerage manager for East Hampton, John Dicking, said on Monday.

    “Buyers are more comfortable with the marketplace. Prices have come down to a more realistic level. Sellers have become by and large somewhat more reasonable. I’m not saying this is a buyer’s market by any means, but we’ve reached some levels in certain properties where buyers feel inclined to jump back in. The difference is, these buyers are not paying more than the asking price,” he said. Mr. Dicking also noticed an improved tone and sense of activity on the part of his staff, and said comparisons between first-quarter numbers this year and last might be misleading since Congress had a homebuyers tax credit of $8,000 in place throughout most of 2010.

    Reports from other real estate companies active on the South Fork are expected later this week.


Bummer! But I bet the terrible weather did have a lot to do with it. Local home-buyers could still move forward (at those much-lower median prices), but the bigger-bucks weekenders and/or out-of-town mogul types were hardly likely to jet in in January and February this year. Contrast this with the mini-building/construction boom going on in the same first quarter, and it sure does sound like a "we're already here to spend" versus "we can't get there in the blizzard" situation.

The raw data used by Brown Harris, Corcoran, Douglas Elliman, and Town & Country is in error -- under-counting by The Long Island Real Estate Report.

George R. Simpson, Pres of Suffolk Research Service, Inc.