When a buyers’ agent hooks a new client in search of a home on the South Fork, the agent finds a price target that the home buyer is comfortable with and sets about finding houses for sale in that range—that is, if that price point even has any houses available.
“Inventory continues to remain low for affordable lower-income homes,” said Mark Shuster, a co-owner and real estate broker at Stoebe & Shuster Real Estate Group.
Mr. Shuster’s observation was echoed by several other East End real estate professionals who answered a series of questions from The Press about the state of the market.
“The South Fork needs more quality inventory under $1 million,” said John F. Wines, a licensed associate real estate broker at Saunders & Associates in Southampton. “When we take buyers out looking for properties under $1 million they often go away discouraged at the lack of selection or must find ways to increase their budgets. ... Affordably priced single-family homes are almost non-existent in many communities. The average teacher, store keeper, plumber, construction worker, or nurse cannot buy a home right now in Southampton Village. And that same concern is spreading to Sag Harbor, Hampton Bays, East Hampton, etcetera.”
Jonathan Miller, the president and CEO of real estate appraisal and consultant firm Miller Samuel Inc., said it’s difficult to assess how much inventory is actually available on the market. But since the first quarter of 2008, Mr. Miller has made his own tally of all the properties available in the towns of Southampton and East Hampton.
“With inventory, you can’t go back in time since the status field of any listing database changes when it is closed or removed from the market,” Mr. Miller said. “It’s not like sales, where you can go back in time [and look at what was sold].”
His data shows first-quarter housing inventory from 2008 to 2017 fluctuated between 1,430 and nearly 1,700 properties available. In 2018, the first quarter saw 1,282 homes on the market, the lowest first-quarter inventory recorded in more than a decade. However, not every quarter in the past 12 months has been a low mark. The second-quarter of 2017 had an inventory of 1,464, a hair higher than the second-quarter’s decade-low of 1,455 in 2008. The third-quarter last year was at 1,466, well above 2012’s 1,302. The fourth quarter of 2017 saw just 1,208 residences for sale, but it was still higher than the mere 1,023 for sale at the end of 2012.
The decade-high was set in the second quarter of 2012 when 1,798 homes were on the market. Miller Samuel compiles quarterly reports for Douglas Elliman.
Mr. Miller contends the minor fluctuations are normal and inventory is steady.
Geoff Gifkins, a regional manager and licensed associate broker at Nest Seekers International, argues the South Fork is actually a perpetual buyers’ market—when housing is fairly priced.
“The market is constantly changing,” Mr. Gifkins said. “Right now we are in a buyers’ market and inventory is high. Essentially we have far more houses than available buyers. When this shifts and more buyers enter and inventory levels lower, the market corrects into a sellers’ market with prices adjusting accordingly. It’s all about the supply and demand.”
But one thing most brokers can agree on is that the demand for entry-level properties exceeds the current supply available on the South Fork.
According to Corcoran Group’s first-quarter report for 2018, overall inventory on the East End is down about 7 percent compared to the same period last year. Corcoran reported that the quarter saw about 1 percent fewer sales at the extreme low end, despite growth in the extreme high end.
Compass’s first-quarter report stated that “the real standout was the sub-$1 million market, where strong demand and limited supply led to fast turnover and bidding wars.”
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