According to a report by the New York State Association of Realtors (NYSAR) the median sales price of homes in Nassau has increased by more than 35 percent in the two years up to April 2002. In addition, NYSAR reports that the number of sales of existing single-family homes has increased by nearly 40 percent during the same period. This will come as no surprise to anyone who has watched house prices in Port Washington escalate sharply and seen the large number of new developments springing up all over town.
Several things are influencing the housing market across the country. Many people have lost heavily on the stock market and are now investing their money in their own property, whether that means improving what they have, moving into something bigger and better or making the transition from rental to ownership. Interest rates are at a 40-year low which is music to the ears of home buyers, who can expect to get a 15 year fixed mortgage with one and a half points down, at a rate as low as 5.75 percent.
While the property market boom is being enjoyed across America, local real estate agents say that Port Washington is doing exceptionally well because it is such a desirable area to move to. They agree that Port Washington's finest assets, as far as real estate is concerned, are the direct railway line to and from Manhattan, the excellent schools, and the town's location on the sound. In addition, according to a "neighborhood search" conducted on the Internet, Port Washington has, compared to the national average, more money per household, better weather, residents are better educated, crime is lower and cultural interest is higher. While some out-of-towners are just discovering the beauty of Port Washington and trying to get a foot on the real-estate ladder, Diane Andersen of Hyde Realty says Port has always had the ability to retain residents. She says that more often than not people raised in Port Washington do not move out of town or return after they have finished college and established themselves. It is this internal movement as people upsize to accommodate growing families and downsize for retirement, that keeps the property inventory down and the prices up.
Karen Morrison, general manager at Accents on Real Estate believes the value of property in Port Washington has been rising for over a year and a half but noted that there was a very sharp increase in January of this year. Low interest rates and a mild winter may have encouraged people to return to the housing market at a time of year that is traditionally slow and Morrison said that prices have been kept high in the last two or three years through lack of inventory. In Port, many houses have doubled in value over the last four years, and this year, local real-estate agents estimate an increase in value of at least 20 percent; one said a starter home in Port Washington is now fetching $300,000 and up. Morrison says that another reason Port Washington maintains consistently high sales is that there is something for everyone. Other Gold Coast towns only have large properties with prices starting at half a million dollars, but Port still has a wide range of properties including one bed roomed cottages, duplexes, ranches and condos. This provides starter homes, albeit at a high price, allowing younger, lower income residents to get their foot in the door.
All this has meant increased pressure on buyers to meet the asking price, make fast decisions and even carry pre-approval letters to prove their intentions. Andersen said that in previous years a seller could expect to wait up to 90 days to find a buyer for a home. Today she says, the time frame is more like two weeks especially if a house is in good condition and priced well. According to Sally Froccaro of Point to Port Realty it is not just the traditional family homes that are selling well but the previously less popular condos are now getting premium prices and selling quickly. She did say however, that less people are interested in taking on a fixer-upper because they have either been through the disruptive process of home construction themselves or have heard enough horror stories from friends to believe it is just not worth the aggravation.
The increase in the property market is good news for people who already own a home in Port Washington and intimidating for those who would like to buy, but can it continue? Morrison says that as yearly trends go it is usual for things to slow in the summer, a time when children are out of school and the weather is hot, making house moves feel like too much effort. But she is confident that the Port Washington market will not crash, even if it slows down for a while. She said, "As in all industries there are peaks and troughs but even between 1987 and 1991 when the real-estate market crashed nationwide, Port Washington did not drop nearly as far, recovered a lot more quickly and within a matter of months was on the increase again."
Local landlords are feeling the down side of the property boom as the rental market has, according to one agent, "dropped through the floor." Many people are realizing that the amount of money they spend on rent could be going a long way toward paying a mortgage and some landlords are lowering rents rather than having a property stand empty for two months or more. While landlords may be tightening their belts, contractors are desperately trying to remedy the lack of homes available to home buyers and are working frantically to build new homes fast enough. This is excellent news for local employment and the town's economy but is it the best thing for Port Washington in the long run? As larger properties are subdivided and more modern one and two family homes are being built, will the new construction cause Port Washington to lose that ephemeral charm that drew homeowners here in the first place? If we over construct could Port Washington become just another town with too much traffic, not enough parking and none of the "Olde Worlde" characteristics that distinguishes it from other towns on the North Shore?