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Old 10-29-2005, 08:39 PM
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Lightbulb Long Island real estate - the "flipper" factor

Like any parent planning for the future, Cynthia Roy of Freeport has tried to invest astutely, putting some of her earnings in money market accounts to pay for her children's college education.

But Roy and her fiance, Eddy Petion, just this month made what they hope will be their most rewarding investment: buying a four-bedroom home in North Babylon.

Although the Cape Cod- style house, at $330,000, was a bit of a stretch, "the home is still the best investment we can make," said Roy, 32, mother of two and a project manager for a Manhattan printing company. "I'm not expecting it to make $100,000 in a year or so. We're hoping that we can just get a fair return."

How much the home will appreciate is anyone's guess. But the couple's purchase comes at a time when the forces that have sent residential real estate prices on Long Island on a meteoric rise appear to have waned. Analysts are no longer asking when the so-called bubble will stop expanding, but how. Indeed, even the most bullish acknowledge that the end of the era of soaring home prices and bidding wars, property flipping and instant riches is finally upon us.

Prices plateau

After repeatedly setting records this year, median home prices plateaued in September at $500,000 in Nassau and $400,000 in Suffolk, according to the most recent monthly market report by the Long Island Board of Realtors.

This might not have caused much of a stir a year or even six months ago, but there are other signs of deceleration. Homes are languishing on the market: The number of unsold homes on Long Island and in Queens has rapidly increased in recent months and now exceeds 20,000. This region has not seen such a high inventory since 1997, when the market was just beginning its rise from the bust of the late 1980s.

"Already, there are reports that sellers have had to cut the price. The houses are staying on the market for a longer period of time," said Irwin Kellner, a Hofstra professor and chief economist for North Fork Bank. "The process is already under way."

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