Downward Trend in First Quarter Sales

    Two more reports issued this week confirmed the decline in East End real estate sales in the first quarter of this year compared to the first quarter of last, though again this may speak more to the high returns spurred by last year’s tax incentives for home buyers than to the state of this year’s market.
    Brown Harris Stevens released its East End residential market report for the first quarter of 2011, which showed its average price down 21 percent to $1.4 million. The company surmised that anxious buyers, who feared the Bush tax cuts would expire at the end of 2010, locked in sales at lower rates in the last quarter of 2010, hurting prices over the past few months. (The cuts were ultimately extended by Congress in December.)
    The median price across the East End decreased by 26 percent to $775,000, in part, the report noted, due to a shift toward houses priced under $1 million. East Hampton Town saw its median price fall substantially (over 25 percent, to $840,000), as previous reports have suggested. The median price drop was even larger in the Southampton market, where it fell 30 percent to $977,500.
    Corcoran put its report out as well, showing a similar, if less pronounced, downward trend. Its first quarter report showed median sales prices down 9 percent, but the average price up 5 percent. Amagansett was a bright spot, with the average sales price up 29 percent to just over $2 million and the median sales price increasing 13 percent to $1.45 million.
    Sag Harbor, too, saw gains, with average and median sales prices both increasing over 20 percent. Steep drop-offs in East Hampton, especially the village — where the average price plummeted by over a quarter, median prices fell by 12 percent to $2.9 million, and total sales volume tanked 60 percent — made the big picture significantly more negative.
    Indeed, total East End sales volume has been dropping each quarter since the first of 2010, and that continued this time around. The weaker performance was attributed to a burst of demand in the first quarter of last year, tax incentives that encourage home ownership having been extended by Congress for much of 2010, though they were not renewed again this year.
    Corcoran described it as a trend toward more normal sales levels, rather than a cause for concern.