In Long Island’s soaring real estate market, would-be buyers may be overlooking communities where home prices have stayed more down-to-earth.
The Island’s most luxurious coastal communities posted eye-popping annual home price increases this spring. The Hamptons community of Wainscott, for instance, saw the median price triple to almost $2.8 million in the second quarter compared with the same period last year; in the village of Roslyn Harbor on the Gold Coast of Nassau County, the median price jumped 158% year-over-year to nearly $2.2 million; and in the North Fork hamlet of Orient, the median price more than doubled annually to $2.25 million, the Manhattan-based appraisal company Miller Samuel and the brokerage Douglas Elliman said in their most recent report.
Across the rest of the Island, outside of the East End, prices jumped 18% from a year earlier, to a median of $555,000, the report shows.
But there are dozens of communities where median prices increased by 10% or less, or even dropped, over the same period, an analysis of community-level home price data compiled for Newsday by Miller Samuel and Douglas Elliman shows. Many have median prices between $300,000 and $700,000, a range made attainable for more buyers by historically low mortgage rates.
Among them are a number of communities – including East Patchogue, Farmingdale, Glen Cove, Huntington Station and Rockville Centre – whose proximity to walkable downtowns and commuter train stations have attracted homebuyers for years.
“The luxury markets across the region have gotten the lion’s share of attention,” especially since they had been lagging before the pandemic, said Jonathan Miller, president and CEO of Miller Samuel. But, he said, “their comeback has overshadowed the more consistent performance of mid-tier housing markets that have fundamental advantages, like close proximity to services and transportation.”
The disparate price trends reflect buyers’ shifting tastes before and during the pandemic, and they offer hints about what’s to come over the next year or so, real estate agents said. Easy access to city-bound trains became less of a draw during the COVID-19 crisis, brokers said, as many affluent buyers fleeing the city sought out more far-flung properties with sprawling backyards and plenty of room for remote work and school, and many workers found they could do their jobs remotely.
Long Island Rail Road ridership has plummeted during the pandemic. The rail system had 1.6 million riders last month, up from 1 million a year earlier but less than half the 3.9 million riders in August 2019, LIRR reports show.
“In the heart of this thing, nobody was going to work, we were all working from home,” said Edmund Costigan, a real estate agent with Hardscrabble Realty in Farmingdale. The commute, he said, “wasn’t considered to be a major concern.”
Many buyers leaving New York City and buying homes on Long Island during the pandemic “aren’t looking for the downtown areas…they don’t want to go from one downtown to another,” said Michael Grannum, a real estate agent with Exit Realty Premier in Massapequa.
But with vaccination rates slowly rising, most children back in school and many New York City-based employers making plans for a gradual return to offices, either full-time or on a hybrid schedule, some real estate brokers say the commute is likely to regain its place as a priority in buyers’ minds.
Costigan said that for perhaps the first time since the pandemic began, a buyer recently asked to see homes no further east than Farmingdale, so he could save time on the westbound commute. Even for those who are still not commuting, Costigan said, “I would think that eventually it has to be on your radar screen.”
Plus, Farmingdale’s Main Street is thriving, he said: “Downtown is happening almost every night…. People are really interested in definitely getting out and getting their social life back together.”
With Long Island’s “price frenzy” easing, Miller predicted, suburban downtowns “will still continue to hold the advantages of their proximity to services and transportation, with the added benefit of the flexibility that remote work allows as well.”
Here is a look at five suburban communities close to downtowns and train stations where home prices have stayed within 10% of their year-ago levels.
Median price: $405,500
Increase since last spring: 4.4%
In the hamlet, “you can go from the $300,000 price range to the $2 million price range,” said Lina Lopes, an associate broker with Douglas Elliman in Farmingville who lives in East Patchogue. “Every single buyer can find a house there, from a weekend vacation home down by the water to a first-time homebuyer.”
The community is quiet, but it has easy access to the neighboring villages of Patchogue and Bellport, which offer ferries to Fire Island along with Long Island Rail Road stations, she said. Lopes said she has seen prices rise during the pandemic, though first-time buyers can still find homes for as low as $300,000. And property taxes tend to be affordable, with $4,000 annual tax bills for some homes, she said.
Before the pandemic, demand was not strong for homes priced above about $500,000, but that changed once COVID hit, she said. “When a lot of people couldn’t find homes out in the Hamptons by the water,…
Read More: 5 lively communities where home prices have risen 10% or less in the past year