May 2016 Feature Story: Real Estate

Jefferson, Lewis home prices dip

Slight increase in Q1 median price for St. Lawrence County

By Ted Booker, NNY Business

The median price of Jefferson County homes sold during the first quarter fell by $33,000 compared to the same period in 2015, a trend that suggests more foreclosed homes are being snapped up.

The median price fell by 22 percent from $147,000 to $114,000, and the 25 lowest-priced homes during the first quarter sold from $9,000 to $40,000, according to Lance M. Evans, executive officer of the Jefferson-Lewis Board of Realtors. Those home sales were among 137 made over the period, down by 12 units, or 8 percent, from the 149 sold in the first quarter of 2015.

Mr. Evans said homes in the county that were foreclosed on by banks appear to be in high demand among investors and landlords that see value in rehabilitating them.

“We’ve had a lot more investors who are picking up properties for great bargains,” he said last month. “A lot of these houses are going to be turned around, flipped or rented. But they need to be fixed up first.”

The decline in the number of homes sold over the period comes as the market in the county continues to be impacted by the abundance of new rental housing options, Mr. Evans said. New rental complexes built over the past five years to meet demand at Fort Drum have contributed to the buyer’s market.

“You’re starting to see more specials out there for free months of rent,” he said.

Compared with the same period last year, the first-quarter median home price in Lewis County dropped by $39,500, or 34 percent, from $117,000 to $77,500, according to the Jefferson-Lewis board. The number of homes sold over the period, however, climbed by 17 units, or 74 percent, from 23 to 40.

Mr. Evans said that Lewis County, like Jefferson, also had several homes sell for under $50,000 in the first quarter, causing the median price to dip from last year.

In St. Lawrence County, however, the first-quarter median price home price increased slightly by $2,750, or 3 percent, from $79,250 to $82,000, according to the county Board of Realtors. And over the same period, the number of homes sold increased by 31 units, or 34 percent, from 90 to 121.

Debra J. Gilson, a broker for County Seat Realty in Canton who serves as president of the St. Lawrence board, said that mild winter weather helped spur more first-quarter home sales across the county.

Because it takes about eight weeks to close on home sales, she said, many deals initially made in November and December are included in first-quarter statistics. Realtors across the county enjoyed similar success during the winter by selling a lot of homes, she said.

“A typical December would be about four transactions, but I had 12 sales on the books for December alone,” she said. “I attribute a lot of that to the mild weather and also to the low interest rates that buyers know will go up.”

The Jefferson-Lewis board has 335 Realtor members and the St. Lawrence board has 184, Mr. Evans said.

March 2016 Feature Story: Real Estate

A commitment to community

Mary Adair, broker/owner of Exit More Real Estate, Watertown and Clayton, in her Watertown office. Mrs. Adair bought the Watertown real estate franchise in 2011 and has since expanded with a second office in Clayton. Photo by Amanda Morrison, NNY Business.

Mary Adair, broker/owner of Exit More Real Estate, Watertown and Clayton, in her Watertown office. Mrs. Adair bought the Watertown real estate franchise in 2011 and has since expanded with a second office in Clayton. Photo by Amanda Morrison, NNY Business.

Real estate the perfect ‘second act’ for Exit More broker-owner

By Karee Magee, NNY Business

Only five words are needed to characterize the owner of Exit More Real Estate: “Mary Adair is always there.”

Mrs. Adair has taken the phrase, designated by her employees and customers, to symbolize her open door-style of business.

“Our backbone is the service we give our customers,” she said. “We show them that we care. You have to show them how much you care before they care.”

Making herself available to her customers is the first step to showing that, Mrs. Adair said, whether it’s dealing with home inspections and appraisals or overcoming obstacles with her customers.

Mrs. Adair includes not only her customers under her open door policy, but for her business, the same policies start at the office.

“Mary is top of the line,” said Karen Jorden, administrative assistant and agent at Exit More. She’s just like a mother figure. She’s got that way about her.”

Ms. Jorden said Mrs. Adair has made the office environment more like a family culture because she’s always able to listen and help resolve problems.

Mrs. Adair goes out of her way to provide training and resources for her employees as well, Ms. Jorden said, limiting out of pocket costs for her staff.

“I love helping the agents grow and I love watching them grow,” Mrs. Adair said of her job as a mentor to her staff.

For Ms. Jorden, this support from Mrs. Adair meant the world to her when Mrs. Adair recommended her for the job as administrative assistant to their former broker.

“It brought tears to my eyes,” Ms. Jorden said. “To be appreciated the way Mary appreciated me is beyond the ability to put into words.

Despite her success, real estate wasn’t a career that Mrs. Adair envisioned for herself, though, while she was an accountant until 2003.

She was convinced to pursue a career as a real estate agent who was working to sell an old house for her and her husband.

“I was tired of sitting behind a desk,” Mrs. Adair said. “I wanted to do something different.”

By the fall of 2003, Mrs. Adair was licensed and working for a small independent real estate company before joining Exit Moore in 2007.

“I’ve found it to be not just a rewarding career, but a challenging one,” she said.

Mrs. Adair said she found her passion in helping people fulfill their dreams, whether it was buying a house or selling one. A passion that led her to be named 2009 Realtor of the Year by the Jefferson-Lewis Board of Realtors.

To her surprise, though, her journey didn’t end there. Four years after joining Exit More Real Estate, her broker, Debbie Moran, announced she was retiring and asked Mrs. Adair is she would like to buy the business.

“I was very happy where I was,” she said. “I never envisioned this.”
Mrs. Adair said she had decided not to buy the business, but her husband, Jerry, changed her mind.

“He said ‘If you don’t buy it, who will buy it? And will it still be Exit,’” she said.

The Exit More Real Estate name symbolized a great deal to her, Adair said, because the word “more” depicted what the business was about.

She bought the franchise in 2011, and two years later she expanded into Clayton, opening an office on Riverside Drive.

Those decisions, though, were the most difficult for another reason.

“Exit was fairly new, only five years old,” Mrs. Adair said. “No one had heard of it.”

It was during that time that she developed her reputation for always being there with a campaign of consistent community involvement.

She decided that the best way to make Exit More Real Estate stand out would be to show the company’s commitment to the people and their community by participating in a coat drive, WPBS-TV auctions, Habitat for Humanity and the North Country Festival of Trees.

The policy was continued in Clayton in 2013 with the Clayton Christmas Parade and the North Country Goes Green Irish Festival parade in Watertown.

“I felt that was a good way to get across who we were,” she said. “We work so hard and we do a good job for people. They remember that.”

The Mary Adair file

Hometown: Lowville

Professional: Broker and owner of Exit More Real Estate

Family: Husband, Jerry Adair; daughters, Tracy Moody and Lorri Norris; two grandsons

Education: Jefferson Community College

Community: Treasurer, Jefferson-Lewis Board of Realtors

Recommended Read: “Who Moved My Cheese” by Spencer Johnson

Karee Magee is a magazine associate for NNY Magazines. Contact her at kmagee@wdt.net or 661-2381.

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. [Read more…]

December 2015 Feature Story: Real Estate

Q3 sales a mixed bag across region

Jefferson falls St. Lawrence, Lewis gain

By Ted Booker, NNY Business

Real estate agents sold fewer homes during the third quarter in Jefferson County than the same period a year ago, while sales climbed in Lewis and St. Lawrence counties. [Read more…]

August 2015 Feature Story: Real Estate

Region sees gains in Q2 home sales

More certainty about Drum boosts ’15 outlook

By Ted Booker, NNY Business

Second quarter home sales in Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties are up from the same period last year. [Read more…]

June 2015 Feature Story: Real Estate

A professional education leader

Linda J. “Lin” Fields is the primary instructor and driving force behind Watertown’s Professional Institute for Real Estate Training. Photo by Norm Johnston, NNY Business.

Linda J. “Lin” Fields is the primary instructor and driving force behind Watertown’s Professional Institute for Real Estate Training. Photo by Norm Johnston, NNY Business.

By Gabrielle Hovendon, NNY Business Magazine

Do you know how to sell a house? How to manage a property or navigate license law? Do you know the difference between a real estate agent and a realtor? [Read more…]

May 2015 Real Estate Feature Story: Q1

Home sales, prices rise in Q1 data

By Ted Booker, NNY Business

The prospect of troop cuts at Fort Drum hasn’t slowed the housing market in Jefferson County.

The number of homes sold in the county during the first quarter of 2015 is up from the same period last year by 17 units, or 13 percent, from 134 to 151, according to the Jefferson-Lewis Board of Realtors. The median home price, meanwhile, climbed over the same period by $16,600, or 13 percent, from $129,800 to $146,400.

“We still had a long winter this year and the snow stuck around, but we didn’t have it coming down every other day like last year, when sales were down,” said Lance M. Evans, executive officer of the Jefferson-Lewis board. “We’re selling more homes at better prices … And there is still a core group in the military who are going to be buying homes wherever they go, instead of renting.”

Of the 151 homes sold in the county during the first quarter, 45 units, or 30 percent, were purchased by military members who secured loans from the Department of Veteran Affairs, Mr. Evans said. During the first quarter of 2014, 49 homes, or 37 percent, were bought with VA loans. And of the 910 homes sold in 2014, 293 units, or 32 percent, were bought with VA loans.

Homes bought with VA loans “have been holding at around 30 percent,” Mr. Evans said. “Barring major troop cuts, I think it’s going to continue to be a steady portion of our sales.”

Mr. Evans added that while the county’s median home prices fell in 2014 from 2013, he believes that strong first-quarter numbers this year indicate homes will likely continue to be sold at higher prices than last year. In 2014, he said, real estate brokers sold houses at lower prices largely because of the greater availability of new rental housing countywide. But the majority of the units are now occupied at some new rental complexes in the Watertown area, he said, such as the Beaver Meadow Apartments complex on Towne Center Drive and the 394-unit Preserve at Autumn Ridge complex on County Route 202.

“A lot of people moved in when units were brand new, but that has changed,” he said.

Even so, more rental units are slated to be built soon in the Watertown area.

The developer of the Autumn Ridge complex, Morgan Management of Pittsford, plans to start building a 359-unit townhouse complex this year to the east of County Route 202. And the developer of the Beaver Meadows complex, COR Development of Fayetteville, will start construction this year on an apartment complex at the former Mercy Hospital site with 160 to 200 rental units, along with retail and office space. The project is expected to be finished in 2016.

In Lewis County, statistics from the Jefferson-Lewis board show the median home sale price during the first quarter climbed from the same period last year by $18,500, or 19 percent, from $98,500 to $117,000. The number of homes sold over the same period decreased by 13 units, or 36 percent, from 36 to 23.

During the first quarter in St. Lawrence County, the median home sale price increased from the same period last year by $7,500, or 11 percent, from $68,000 to $75,500, according to the St. Lawrence County Board of Realtors. The number of homes sold over the same period increased by 8 units, or 11 percent, from 73 to 81.

The Jefferson-Lewis board has 333 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.

March 2015 Real Estate Feature: Lori Gervera profile

Realtor’s drive inspires other women

Lori Gervera, associate broker of Keller Williams Northern New York and Lori Gervera Team, Watertown, has worked in the industry for more than 20 years while also managing marriage and raising three children. Photo by Justin Sorensen, NNY Business.

Lori Gervera, associate broker of Keller Williams Northern New York and Lori Gervera Team, Watertown, has worked in the industry for more than 20 years while also managing marriage and raising three children. Photo by Justin Sorensen, NNY Business.

By Lorna Oppedisano, NNY Business

Lori J. Gervera, associate broker of Keller Williams Northern New York and Lori Gervera Team, does one killer balancing act. [Read more…]

Peak sustainable living: Aubertine & Currier designs unique straw bale house

Aubertine and Currier Architects, Engineers and Land Surveyors has designed a unique straw bale home in Henderson with a variety of other sustainable features as well. Straw bale insulation dramatically cuts heating costs. Rendering courtesy Aubertine and Currier

Aubertine and Currier Architects, Engineers and Land Surveyors has designed a unique straw bale home in Henderson with a variety of other sustainable features as well. Straw bale insulation dramatically cuts heating costs. Renderings courtesy Aubertine and Currier

Melanie D. O’Brien, originally of Staten Island, acknowledges that both she and her husband Robert M., “by our nature think very long-term.”

Coupled with the pair’s environmental consciousness and intrepid spirit, it’s a patience that will serve them well as they reap the energy savings on what could be the north country’s first ever straw-bale home on Route 3 in Henderson, which they plan to start building this spring.

That’s straw, not to be confused with livestock-edible hay, and lots of it. Five hundred, 18-inch thick by 14-by-36 bales of straw, to be exact.

“Straw is basically rot resistant, insect resistant, moisture resistant,” said Brian A. Jones, one of two architects at Aubertine and Currier Architects, Engineers and Land Surveyors, Watertown, who have spent the past three months designing the house for the O’Briens, researching innovative techniques and soliciting their input on aesthetics.

Straw bale houses are popular in drier climates particularly in California and the Southwest. In the north country’s wetter climate, the design required careful position of the straw bales above the floor, insulation that the designers say is likely to slash heating costs at least in half. Straw will rot if left directly in water for extended periods of time. [Read more…]

Taking a green path: From Watertown to Massena, businesses design to LEED

The new performing arts center at SUNY Potsdam, slated for completion in December, is one of many buildings in the north country that was designed to LEED specifications. The firm Pfeiffer Partners Architects used a special insulation technique to achieve maximal energy efficiency. Melanie Kimbler-Lago/ NNY Business

The new performing arts center at SUNY Potsdam, slated for completion in December, is one of many buildings in the north country that was designed to LEED specifications. The firm Pfeiffer Partners Architects used a special insulation technique to achieve maximal energy efficiency. Melanie Kimbler-Lago/ NNY Business

In recent years, a crop of green buildings has been sprouting up in the north country. From Watertown to Massena, environmentally friendly buildings are incorporating the latest in sustainable technology and achieving Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification in the process.

This designation, established in 1998 by the U.S. Green Building Council, recognizes sustainability and efficient use of resources by building designers and owners. And according to area architects, it’s becoming increasingly common in Northern New York.

“We are definitely seeing more people interested in it,” said Brian A. Jones, LEED-certified architect and partner at Aubertine and Currier in Watertown. “I believe it’s going to be a wave of the future and eventually a requirement for all buildings. Energy’s not going to get cheaper, and it’s going to be more vital to conserve our resources. People are realizing they’re going to have to live and build differently to afford living here.”

Aubertine and Currier’s most recent LEED-certified project was the 7,800-square-foot Land Port of Entry facility at Cannon Corners for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Customs, and Border Protection. This $7.5 million building, located in Mooers Forks, achieved silver certification after it was completed in January 2012. It includes a rain catchment system that collects rainwater for reuse in toilets and washing machines, solar panels that provide energy for hot water heating and a variety of green materials in its construction. [Read more…]