Thawing Market

Lately it seems the ground isn’t the only thing that’s finally thawing out. After years of declining prices and lackluster sales, the housing market on Long Island shows signs of recovery—that’s good news for buyers and sellers alike.

“A lot of people who have been sitting on the fence for a long time are finally getting off,” said Mary Alice Ruppert, a realtor with Realty Connect USA out of Babylon. “I think the concern is that interest rates might go up. They’re not going to stay this low forever. I also think a lot of people feel confident that we have pretty much hit a low in terms of pricing.”

Ruppert additionally noted a benefit to Long Island’s delayed real estate recovery “is that we get to watch the rest of the country and know what’s coming.” But with an improving market comes higher prices. That means buyers who have been waiting for the right time should start looking now while prices (and interest rates) are still low.

“Open houses are very well attended,” said Teri Catapano-Black, owner and broker at Century 21 Catapano Homes in Bethpage. She said that even in the winter open houses were drawing crowds on par with peak selling season. “Buyers have realized that the prices have corrected themselves from a few years ago. Interest rates are slowly climbing, which is a concern for many buyers, so they feel this would be a good year to buy.”

Across most of the Island, buyers and sellers are on equal footing. An improving market means better prices for sellers, while low interest rates on loans helps buyers. Also a boon to buyers is competition between banks and credit unions for mortgages. “If you don’t have a lot of cash, but you’re really good in your qualifications, you can get a mortgage for 95 percent, no problem,” said Ruppert.

Many investors have done their job in purchasing foreclosed homes over the years. Buyers can look forward to seeing many properties with updated interiors and amenities on the market this season. But until inventory opens up buyers need to be ready to move when they find a home they like. “Make sure that you have all your ducks in a row,” Ruppert said. If a property gets multiple offers, a realtor is likely to advise the seller to go with the person who is most able to purchase quickly, which means having financing lined up.

Still, in a few of the region’s niche markets sellers are at a real advantage. A shortage of supply has created high demand, which can lead to deals closing almost as soon as homes are put on the market. Catapano-Black said that she has seen many houses go quickly to experienced buyers who have everything in order, are willing to pay top dollar and are able to pounce. “These are seasoned buyers, very qualified, who are ready, willing and able to buy in the spring,” she said. “Very frequently, we’re seeing bidding wars on homes.” Ruppert echoed the sentiments and said that she has seen areas where a home is put up for sale at $100,000 over market price and still get bids because supply has been low.