August 2016 Feature Story: Real Estate

Mixed bag in Q2 real estate report

Jefferson up, Lewis down, St. Lawrence flat

By Marcus Wolf, NNY Business

Second quarter home sales in Jefferson County are up from the same quarter last year, but are down in Lewis County and relatively the same in St. Lawrence County.
The number of houses sold in Jefferson County increased by 20 units, or 8 percent, from 251 to 271, according to the Jefferson-Lewis Board of Realtors. Lewis County home sales decreased by 11 units, or 16 percent, from 56 to 45 over the same period; in St. Lawrence County, the number of units sold was relatively the same as the second quarter last year, decreasing only by two units from 161 to 159, according to the St. Lawrence County Board of Realtors.

Compared to the first half of 2015, home sales from January to June increased in Jefferson County by eight units, or 2 percent, from 371 to 379; in Lewis County by six units, or 8 percent, from 79 to 85 units and in St. Lawrence County by 34 units, or 14 percent, from 251 to 285.

Steady increases in sales during the six-month period for the three-county area were assisted by strong first-quarter sales. Lance M. Evans, executive officer of both the Jefferson-Lewis and St. Lawrence boards, said that while winter tourism was down for Lewis County, prospective home buyers still came up during the fall for hunting and four-wheeling. He also said that St. Lawrence County had a strong first quarter this year.

“They had a good run and another good run in the second quarter,” he said.

Mr. Evans said that the boost in Jefferson County home sales is bolstered by the number of foreclosed houses that have sold during the second quarter.

Nancy L. Rome, a Realtor for Rome RSA Realty LLC, said she has sold about 25 foreclosures this year.

“Banks don’t want to hold on to them for very long,” she said.

Many residents associate foreclosure sales with “zombie” property sales, Mr. Evans said, but homeowners who purchased the foreclosures either live in them or are initiating repairs. Mrs. Rome said that banks make sure that foreclosed houses have at least heat and running water before putting them on the market.

“There are opportunities there,” Mr. Evans said. “(For example) if you could buy a house for ten grand, you might do it and fix it up. That might get you into the market.”

Sale prices mostly down

Compared with the second quarter in 2015, the median price for homes decreased in Jefferson and St. Lawrence counties, but increased in Lewis County. Mr. Evans said that this year over the same period, Jefferson County’s median home price decreased by $22,300, or 14 percent, from $160,000 to $137,700. In St. Lawrence County, the median price decreased from the second quarter in 2015 by $11,000, or 12 percent, from $90,000 to $79,000.

The median price increased in Lewis County over the same period by $22,500, or 23 percent, from $97,450 to $120,000. Because of the lower number of sales, median prices in Lewis County can be affected by one or two high or low prices.

The decrease in median price in Jefferson County was caused by the increase in foreclosures, Mr. Evans said, but the lack of sales in Lewis County has kept its median price up.

Mr. Evans also said that lower prices, however, help first-time home buyers and provide incentives for investors in the real estate market.

“The lower prices also mean that the owner has more capital to put into the home and make it, and the neighborhood, better,” Mr. Evans said.

Statewide, quarterly home sales have increased by 3,339 units, or 12 percent, from 27,678 units to 31,017 units, compared to the 2015 second quarter, according to the New York State Association of Realtors. The second-quarter statewide median sales price was also up this year by $5,500, or 2 percent, from $224,500 in 2015 to $230,000.

Statewide during the first and second quarters this year, 55,543 homes were sold, up 15 percent, or 7,394 homes, from the 48,149 sold in the first and second quarters in 2015.

Marcus Wolf is a Johnson Newspapers staff writer. Contact him at mwolf@wdt.net or 661-2371.