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House hunters search for Sandy bargains

| Sunday, March 10, 2013, 6:27 p.m.

LONG BEACH, N.Y. — It sounds like the premise for a new reality TV series: “Hurricane House” — people scouring waterside communities looking to buy homes damaged by Superstorm Sandy at a deep discount.

While there are bargains out there, ranging from 10 percent off pre-storm prices for upscale homes on New York's Long Island and the Jersey Shore to as much as 60 percent off modest bungalows in Staten Island and Queens, it's still very much a game of buyer beware.

Not only are buyers are on the hook for repairs and in some cases total rebuilds, they're also wading into a host of potentially expensive uncertainties about flood maps and insurance rates, zoning changes and updated building codes.

“It's totally changed the way I sell real estate,” said Lawrence Greenberg, a sales associate with Van Skiver Realtors, whose own Mantoloking, N.J., office was wrecked in the storm.

Prior to Sandy, prospective buyers rarely mentioned issues such as flood maps and building elevations until the matter of flood insurance came up — often at closing. “Now, everybody asks the question of elevation,” Greenberg said.

There is no sign of an exodus from shoreline communities. The number of for-sale listings in January in the 380 ZIP codes hit by the storm was about 2 percent below the same time last year, according to online real estate company Zillow. That indicates that most homeowners are rebuilding.

But real estate agents said the majority of homes for sale have some damage from the storm, and it appears that a rising number are being put on the market as the spring home-buying season approaches.

New listings range from destroyed oceanfront properties being sold for the land, to flooded bayside homes untouched since the storm that must be gutted. Even the few undamaged homes in affected neighborhoods are listing at prices about 10 percent lower than they would have been pre-storm.

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