We Hold a Mirror Up to L.I.

The Long Island housing market is often held as a mirror to the Manhattan one. The reflection’s been presciently accurate as of late.

Home sales—from the playgrounds of the Hamptons through the bedroom communities of western Nassau County—dropped sharply in the first quarter of 2008 from the louder boom times of early 2007.

Reports out in late April from appraisal firm Miller Samuel and brokerage Prudential Douglas Elliman show precipitous drops in sales even as home prices stayed steady.

In the Hamptons, home sales were down 42.4 percent from the first quarter of 2007 and nearly 29 percent from the fourth quarter of 2007. A blowback from the first drop in the Wall Street year-end bonuses total since 2002 (and from a general Street uneasiness)? Perhaps. Sales dropped sharply at the luxury end of the Hamptons and North Fork markets, too. This was not a winter for bullish summer preparations.

And the inventory of unsold homes on the market increased in both the Hamptons and the North Fork—27.2 percent and 19.9 percent, respectively. Ditto for the rest of Suffolk County (5.3 percent) and for Nassau County (6.5 percent). Long Island homes did not sell like they did a year ago.

Which was the case in Manhattan. Sales there dropped over 34 percent annually, according to Miller Samuel.

But! Prices on Long Island, particularly on the East End, stayed high year over year. In Nassau and Suffolk outside of the East End, prices have been sliding for years now. But, in the luxury North Fork-Hamptons market, the median sales price has increased 26 percent since early 2006. In Manhattan, the median (and the average) home prices set a record in the first quarter of 2008, as did the prices on the borough’s luxury end.

The Long Island mirror reflects both the good and the bad.

We Hold a Mirror Up to L.I.