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…]

Building activity shows uptick in ’13

After a somewhat sluggish 2012, construction activity in the Watertown area has picked up through the first half of 2013 but still lags in comparison to the past five years, building permits show.

Total declared value in construction permits filed in the City of Watertown Bureau of Code Enforcement, including new structures, additions, alterations, repairs and maintenance, totaled 3,278,356 over the first two quarters of 2013, while that figure was 1,942,067 through the first half of 2012. Total declared construction value for 2012 reached just 16,326,074, down about 63 percent from a high over the last five years of 43,882,327 in 2011.

Major projects including renovations at Samaritan Medical Center and the construction of the Creek Wood Apartments off Mill Street contributed to the spikes in the third and fourth quarters of 2011.

So far in 2013, the largest single building project in declared value according to permits filed was the addition of a 60-by-100-foot shell at 1340 Washington St., North Country Neurology, valued at $800,000. The practice expanded from about 3,600 square feet to just over 10,000 square feet to accommodate an expanding pool of clients and additional neurologists, a project begun in late spring and completed this fall by Lunco Corp., Carthage, which also designed and built the original structure. [Read more…]

Despite dip, commercial sales steady: Realtors say tapering off not a definitive trend

From January to July this year, only five units of commercial and industrial real estate have been sold in Jefferson County, compared to 11 units during the same period in 2012, but north country real estate agents say the commercial market has been relatively steady in recent years and that the apparent tapering off isn’t evidence of a definitive trend.

In Lewis County, only one unit of commercial property has been sold in the same period of 2013, compared to three over that period in 2012. In St. Lawrence County, however, nine units have been sold in that period of 2013, compared to seven in 2012.

St. Lawrence County is also the only of the three counties to see the average price of commercial real estate increase over the six-month period, from $133,814 in 2012 to $159,055, with the range increasing from $15,000 to $400,000 in 2012 to $24,500 to $780,000 in 2013. In Jefferson County, the range over the six-month period shrunk from $20,500 to $730,000 in 2012 to $65,000 to $335,000 in 2013. [Read more…]

Home sales strong in first quarter

North country home sales made a strong showing in the first quarter of 2013, as median prices jumped from last year in Jefferson and St. Lawrence counties.

A total of 165 houses in Jefferson County were sold at a median price of $152,000 in the first quarter. That’s an increase of $12,250, or 9 percent, from last year’s median price of $139,750, based on 166 houses sold in the same quarter of 2012. In St. Lawrence County, 108 houses were sold compared with 101 during the first quarter of 2012; the median home price increased $1,000 year to year, or about 1 percent, from $75,500 to $76,500.

In contrast with Jefferson and St. Lawrence counties, Lewis County saw the median home price drop from last year by $20,000, or 17 percent, from $117,500 to $97,500. Thirty units were sold, up from last year’s 26.

[Read more…]

COR Development dropped Carthage apartment plan due to poor market study

General manager of COR Development Co., Steven F. Aiello, at the construction site for Beaver Meadows Apartments, Watertown. Photo by Norm Johnston/NNY Business.

Plans for a 364-unit apartment complex in West Carthage were scrapped in January because a market study commissioned by COR Development Co. created serious concerns for financiers, according to COR General Manager Steven F. Aiello.

“We would have been pleased to have done the project there, but the market study didn’t support it. There were financial challenges getting the project built there,” Mr. Aiello said. “We have an obligation to the state to make sure the project had the best opportunity to be successful.” [Read more…]