February 2016 Feature Story: Real Estate

Jefferson home sales slide in ’15

For sale signs are popping up all over Watertown, where a strong buyer’s market has been created by an influx of new housing stock and deployments at Fort Drum. Amanda Morrison, NNY Business.

For sale signs are popping up all over Watertown, where a strong buyer’s market has been created by an influx of new housing stock and deployments at Fort Drum. Amanda Morrison, NNY Business.

Real estate posts stronger year in Lewis, St. Lawrence cos.

By Ted Booker, NNY Business

Homes sold in Jefferson County in 2015 were dampened by a buyer’s market, while sales in Lewis and St. Lawrence counties were up from 2014. An influx of new apartment complexes in recent years contributed to lower 2015 home sales in Jefferson County, where there is now a wealth of affordable housing options to choose from, said Lance M. Evans, executive officer of the Jefferson-Lewis Board of Realtors. He said home sales in the county slowed down during the second half of the year, a symptom of the “buyer’s market.”

“With more choices in Jefferson County now, people are going to rent first and look for the best possible deal,” Mr. Evans said last month. “They can shop around a little bit more.”

Compared with 2014, home sales in Jefferson County decreased in 2015 by 48 units, or 5 percent, from 897 to 849, according to the Jefferson-Lewis board. Sales during the fourth quarter decreased by 20 units, or 8 percent, from 264 to 244.

In Lewis County, 2015 home sales climbed from 2014 by 33 units, or 20 percent, from 167 to 200; during the fourth quarter, they increased by 19 units, or 48 percent, from 40 to 59.

Like those in Lewis County, real estate brokers in St. Lawrence County also had a strong year, according to the county’s Board of Realtors: 2015 home sales increased from 2014 by 30 units, or 5 percent, from 589 to 619. Fourth-quarter sales fell by 13 units, or 8 percent, from 167 to 154.

Mr. Evans said he believes the Jefferson County market will probably experience a similar year in 2016. But the return of Fort Drum soldiers who were deployed overseas could have a positive impact on the market.

“Soldiers starting to come back will move more of the product,” he said, “whether it’s buying or renting.”

In Lewis County, he said, real estate brokers have said they sold a strong mix of homes to seasonal and year-round residents.
“Usually they’re selling to either year-round or seasonal people, but in 2015 they were doing both,” Mr. Evans said. “People came up in the summer and fall who wanted to buy.”

St. Lawrence County home sales were up from 2014 during the first, second and third quarters of 2015, Mr. Evans said, but they dropped during the fourth quarter. He said Alcoa’s announcement last fall of plans to downsize its Massena operation could have contributed to the fourth-quarter slowdown. The company is likely to downsize its operation sharply in 2019 unless the global aluminum market rebounds.

“People who weren’t sure about what Alcoa would do might have backed off and chosen not to buy,” Mr. Evans said.

The 2015 median home sale price in Jefferson County was up from the previous year by $4,300, or 3 percent, from $145,700 to $150,500; in Lewis County, the median price increased by $5,500, or 5 percent, from $111,500 to $117,000; in St. Lawrence County, the median price increased slightly from $86,920 to $87,000.

The Jefferson-Lewis board has 327 Realtor members and the St. Lawrence board has 185, Mr. Evans said.

Ted Booker is a Johnson Newspapers staff writer. Contact him at tbooker@wdt.net or 661-2371.