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LI Home Prices, Sales Drop Again

The housing market on Long Island remains weak, with home prices and sales volume down last month.

The Nassau County median house price fell by 5.2 percent last month compared to the previous March, from $385,000 to $365,000, the Multiple Listing Service of Long Island said Monday. The median is the midpoint in a series of numbers. Prices have fallen in Nassau for 10 of the last 12 months, according to the MLS report. The number of Nassau homes sold in March fell by 4.8 percent, to 620, from the previous March.

In Suffolk County, median prices dropped by 0.3 percent, from $300,000 to $299,000, and the number of homes sold fell by 3.5 percent, to 668. Prices declined every month for the past year in Suffolk except for February, when they were flat compared to a year earlier.

The report contained a hint the market could be stabilizing, said Jonathan Miller, president of real estate appraiser Miller Samuel, which tracks Long Island prices. The volume of homes going into contract jumped by 11.3 percent in Nassau County and 10 percent in Suffolk County last month, compared to the previous March. It was the fifth straight month of increases for Nassau, and the sixth for Suffolk.

The number of contracts signed last month “reflects what’s happening on the ground now,” Miller said. By contrast, the sales that closed in March generally went into contract last fall, when consumers were battered by bad news about the stock market, the U.S. credit rating downgrade and the financial crisis in Europe, Miller said.

He cautioned that prices are likely to drop further this year as more foreclosed homes hit the market following the $25-billion settlement reached by the U.S. government and 49 state attorneys general with five major banks.

Even so, buyers appear to be optimistic, said Diane Polland, a real estate agent with Coldwell Banker in Great Neck. “I see a lot of traffic in the open houses,” she said. However, she cautioned, lending standards remain strict in the wake of the housing market crash.