With the National Association of Realtors warning that existing inventory of homes across the country could run out in two months, Suffolk County has been following the sellers’ market trend to a fever pitch.
A Jeffries note reported a steep increase in homeownership for those aged 25 to 29 and a particularly accelerated rate for those aged 30 to 34.
“Apartment List Homeownership Report” said that “millennials lead all generations in buying,” with the percentage of millennials owning homes up to 47.9 from 40 percent three years ago.
Clever Real Estate said that 30 percent of millennials reported the pandemic being the catalyst for them buying a home.
The local Oakdale/Sayville/Bayport/Blue Point market, traditionally slower to sell and often taking a couple of months to accept a bid for a starter home (such as an 1,800-square-foot, one-story ranch), now sees listings being bought up in less than a week of posting.
Barbara Leogrande, a realtor with Douglas Elliman in Sayville, who has a strong social media presence with cheerful young couples holding “Sold by Barbara” signs in front of their newly purchased homes, said, “With the pandemic drastically changing open-house protocols, all buyers who come will have been financially vetted (pre-approval or proof of funds for cash buyers), whereas before you could have people who just always wanted to see a particular house come.”
Leogrande said that in the past year, entry-level homes in the area typically sell over the asking price, with $50,000-plus listings being a common occurrence.
“You’ll have situations where your buyer is all cash, no contingencies, and then we’re bewildered that they’re outbid!” said Leogrande.
Bryn Elliott, a realtor with Douglas Elliman in Farmingville, ran an ad that boasted his sale of nearly a dozen homes in the Bayport-Blue Point area that sold an average of 10 to 15 percent above listing price.
For Bayport, the average home price rose $64,000 from March 2020 to March 2021, making it one of the most sought-after communities in the South Shore of Suffolk.
According to Rae Lerner, a realtor with Century 21, the appeal of the area has always been the proximity to the Great South Bay, walking to downtown areas, boating marinas, centuries-old trees, the serenity of the area, and ferries to Fire Island.
“It’s the small-town effect; people who know the area, know what it’s worth,” said Lerner.
But although the regular market of local buyers is in full force, according to Elliott, “On top of our normal buyer demand on Long Island, we have had additional buyers who have moved out from the city.”
Leogrande said that buyers from Brooklyn, Queens, and Nassau have taken notice of the great schools in Bayport-Blue Point and coupled that with the availability of waterfront property. “You just see it in the buyers, the fashion, the style, the culture—Bayport-Blue Point has traditionally always had all that, but people from outside the area are now taking notice,” said Leogrande.
Lerner did warn that “the lack of busing in Bayport-Blue Point does deter some buyers, as they aren’t able to drop off and pick up their kids.”
Lerner said an open house of hers in Bayport on the Saturday of Easter weekend saw eight couples and had an offer at midnight on early Monday morning, one of the fastest sales she has ever had.
What does this mean for sellers looking to price their homes competitively? Leogrande, Elliott, and Lerner all agree that listing appropriately with neighborhood comps is the best strategy, as well as allowing organic price elevation among buyers.
The pandemic has tested the creativity of realtors in showing homes, as only recently were prospective buyers allowed into a home for open houses.
In its place have been virtual tours via FaceTime, websites, and YouTube videos. Leogrande, who has always filmed videos for her sellers, utilizes a formidable film crew that has done work for luxury homes in Los Angeles and Malibu. Elliott most recently posted a 35-minute guided video tour of a luxury home in Sayville, sprawling at 5,500 square feet.
In addition to the inventory supply and demand, mortgage rates have been at a historic low, often landing below 3 percent making the buying power much stronger.
“This competitive market has been further fueled by low interest rates, which can encourage buyers, but also enable purchasers by increasing their spending power,” said Elliott.
This of course can frustrate buyers who are already reaching to their maximum prices and still losing bidding wars.
“I absolutely do this to see the joy in people when they get their home, and if I see that my buyers are getting beleaguered by the pain of losing bidding wars, I will tell them to take a break for six months to recuperate,” said Lerner, whose particularly compassionate brand of real estate has been of great comfort to young couples new to the home-buying market.
According to Insider magazine, “As the pandemic sent families rushing from cities to the suburbs in search of more space and historically low mortgage rates made home ownership more feasible, the housing market got too hot for its own good.”
Most recently, a fire-damaged home in Oakdale was listed for $450,000, more than what is was listed for in 2017 prior to the fire, proving that it is indeed a sellers’ market for the area.