Tri-County Real Estate Sales Rebound

Lance Evans

After being slightly down in 2018, overall property sales (including residential, land, multi-family and commercial properties) in Jefferson, Lewis, and St. Lawrence counties were generally higher in 2019. The median price followed this pattern also and days on the market continued to drop. When narrowing the focus to residential units (single-family, townhouse, and condominium), the trends were similar. 

    Residential sales account for about 80 percent of property sales in the tri-county region. Most of these are single-family homes. However, our area records about a dozen townhouses or condominium sales each year which are included in the residential numbers. 

Jefferson County 

    Sales of all property in Jefferson County increased about three percent over 2018 and one percent over 2017 with 1,384 properties changing hands. The median price rose to $139,900 from $125,000 in 2018 and $120,000 in 2017 while days on the market rose slightly from 2018 to 116 days. This was down over three weeks from 2017. 

    Sales of residential properties also increased in 2019, but at a slower rate. Overall, 1,149 residential properties (up from 1,141 in 2018 and 1,135 in 2017) were sold. The median price jumped from $135,000 in 2017 and 2018 to $152,400 in 2019. Meanwhile, days on the market fell four days from 2018 to 95 days and over four weeks from 2017’s 124 day figure.  

St. Lawrence County 

    Results were similar in St. Lawrence County with sales of all properties down slightly from 2018 and up from 2017. Residential property sales rose four percent compared to both 2017 and 2018. 

    In 2019, 883 properties of all kinds changed hands. This was down 11 from 2018, but up six from 2017. The median price rose $3,000 from 2018 to $88,000 and up $9,000 compared to 2017. Days on the market fell 10 days to 181 in 2019 and over three weeks from 2017. 

    Residential sales rose four percent over 2017 and 2018 with 781 homes sold. The median price of $95,000 was about $5,000 higher than 2018 and was up over $10,000 from 2017. Days on the market fell four weeks from 2017 to 2019 and one week from 2018 with residential properties spending 170 days on the market. 

Lewis County 

    Similar to Jefferson and St. Lawrence counties, Lewis County had a good year in terms of real estate sales. Unlike the other two counties, unit sales were down from 2017, but up from 2018. 

    The number of properties of all types rebounded from 2018 to 294 units. This was up six units from 2018 but down 12 properties from 2017. Similarly, median price was up over $7,000 from 2018 to $99,000. The 2017 median price was about $2,500 higher than 2019. Like the other two counties, marketing time decreased to 153 days, down from 162 days in the previous two years. 

    Residential sales followed the same pattern with 222 units sold in 2019, up 15 from 2018 but down 16 from 2017. In the reverse of other counties, median price was down from 2018 ($114,450 compared to $119,000) and up from 2017’s $94,000. Residential units spent 122 days on the market in 2019, up one day from 2018, but down a week from 2017. 

New York State 

    Only residential sales figures were available for sales in the state, which fell by a little over one percent from 2018. However the median price for a home increased by five and a half percent. Information on days on the market was not available. 

Notes on the above 

    All of the local figures come from the multiple listing systems of the Jefferson-Lewis Board of Realtors and St. Lawrence County Board of Realtors. The New York State Association of Realtors provided the state numbers. Average days on the market is the amount of time between listing the property and the purchase offer being signed. Median price is the middle number of all the prices and is considered more statistically accurate than the average price. 

What is a payment in lieu of taxes?

Jay Matteson

A Payment in Lieu of Taxes or “PILOT” is an economic development tool that may mean the difference between a business locating in your community or locating somewhere else in New York State or the United States. The use of a PILOT brings about a gain in the tax base and usually more jobs. A PILOT helps grow the local economy by helping an existing business grow or a new business to start up in a community. 

    The PILOT works by allowing for a “managed” increase in taxes for the business. Let’s use an example to make this clear. A new business comes into the community and buys an acre of land. Prior to the business opening its doors, the acre of land brings $1,000 of tax revenue to the community. After the business opens its doors, let us say the full taxes on the higher-valued property is $20,000. To help the business get started and better manage its initial startup expenses, a payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) agreement is negotiated. The PILOT may last for 15 years, under which the business would pay 25% of the higher tax assessment for the first 5 years (an additional $5,000/yr.), 50% ($10,000/yr.) for the next 5 years, 75% ($15,000) for the last five years, and then ramp up to the full tax of $20,000 in year 16. This is all new money for the community. The business started out on year one paying more in taxes than was collected before the business opened it doors. More tax revenue for the community. By year 16 the company was paying full taxation on the property. If the PILOT had not been employed, the business may not have started or may have decided to locate elsewhere which equals no increase in the tax base or local jobs. 

    This was a simple example of how a PILOT may be set up. The PILOT helps the company manage its tax increases over a negotiated number of years. The following is a real example of a PILOT negotiated with Great Lakes Cheese Company in Adams in 2007 when they began considering building a new cheese plant. Great Lakes was considering moving the plant to western New York and was receiving pressure to do so. Jefferson County Economic Development stepped in and helped the company by negotiating a 20-year PILOT because of the size of the project and the number of jobs created. As you review the graph, you’ll see the taxes paid by Great Lakes Cheese went up $35,000 the first year of their project and then over 20 years the taxes have gone up in a manageable manner. Great Lakes Cheese built their $86 million dollar plant next to their old plant in Adams. This created jobs, brought new revenue into the community and supported the dairy industry in Northern New York. 

    The Jefferson County Economic Development is responsible for managing the tax incentive tools such as a PILOT. Jefferson County Economic Development staff will work with affected municipalities, such as Jefferson County, a local school district and other municipalities to negotiate the PILOT with the project developer. The goal of Jefferson County Economic Development is to create a win – win situation for everyone involved. The community wins by supporting the expansion of the existing business and adding jobs or through bringing in a new business creating new jobs, new opportunity and a stronger tax base. 

    PILOTS may be employed to assist with traditional business start-ups such as manufacturing and service industries., as well as to attract renewable energy projects – all of which can bring thousands of dollars to local communities. In Jefferson County PILOTS are not available to small retail business, retailers, or food establishments. PILOTs are a good tool to use to grow our local communities. 

Leadership Honored at 9th Annual 20 Under 40 Awards

The 2019 20 Under 40 Award Recipients pose for a portrait at the luncheon on Friday in Watertown. Julia Hopkins/NNYBusiness

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Setting Goals In Life And Business

Kristen Aucter

“A goal is a dream with a deadline” – Napoleon Hill.  

Goal setting is one of the most important life skills you can have to help accomplish whatever you put your mind to. One of Henry Ford’s most famous quotes is “Whether you think you can, or you can’t – you’re right.” Here are some reasons why goals are so important in our lives:  

1- Goals help you be who you want to be. You can have all the dreams in the world, but you if you fail to act on them, how will you get where you want to go? When you know how to set goals, and start going after them, you will be creating a new path of action that can take you step by step towards the future you deserve, and more importantly, the future you want.  

2- Goals stretch your comfort zone.  

in pursuit of your goals you may find yourself talking to more people, attending new events, joining different associations, enrolling in unique training workshops or many other activities. Pushing yourself past your normal comfort zone is the fastest way to grow and have life satisfaction.  

3- Goals help boost your self-esteem and confidence. When you set a goal, and follow through, you have proven to yourself and others that you’ve got what it takes to get things done. Goals not only increase your confidence; they also help you develop an inner strength. 

4- Goals help you rely on yourself. Don’t let the people around you decide your life for you. You can take charge of your life by setting goals and making plans to reach them. Once you get into a goal setting habit you will notice that you feel more assertive and independent. People around you may also start to notice your presence. Goals enable you to turn the impossible into the possible.  

5- Goals improve your mindset and help you move forward. Moving towards a positive direction is much better than doing the same thing but moving backwards. The momentum you will gain is a real-life energizer.  

6- Goals leads to empowering emotions. Studies have shown that people who set and reach goals are readily performing at their best and are generally satisfied with their life overall.  

Goals utilize a proven concept such as the SMART system from fitsmallbusiness.com for creating attainable goals. 

    Whether it be in your personal or professional life, breaking down seemingly hard to achieve goals into small, manageable and practical steps will give you the ability to turn your “someday dreams” into real-life accomplishments. 

Lewis County is Dairy

 

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In Pets We Invest: Household spending rises in NNY

Photo provided by SUNY CANTON

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Turnovers Are For Breakfast, Not the Workplace

KRISTEN AUCTER

One of the biggest issues facing employers is the rate of turnover. Employers are coming to realize that more often than not a quality work environment is high on the list of priorities to the average employee. Turnover is fairly common for all businesses but can have a massive impact on an organization. Turnover is disruptive, costs money, and impacts employee morale. While the financial cost is difficult to measure, effects can include things like increased workloads, overtime expenses, and reduced productivity that is often found with low employee morale. That isn’t even including things like recruitment costs or the time and money that are put into training the new people. Turnover will never be 100 percent preventable but we can at least try to manage it better.

    Every business should attempt to have some sort of strategy in place to keep employees. The following are a few ideas to start that strategy:

Saving Money

  • Do you have businesses in your neighborhood that are willing to trade with you? Is there a restaurant that would agree to employee discounts for your employees that frequent there? Network and make connections that could benefit your employees or employees on both sides.
  • Celebrate employee’s work anniversary with a check or savings bond.
  • Add pet illnesses to the list of approved uses of sick time.
  • Buy movie tickets in bulk and make them available at a discount to employees.

Valuable Time

    If there’s one thing organizations can often offer with the most gain with the least pain, it’s time off and flexible work schedules.

  • Give employees the option of working an adjusted schedule that helps them with family, school, or personal preferences.
  • Provide a once-a-month pass for a longer lunch hour with the understanding that the time doesn’t have to be made up later.
  • Give employees a free floating vacation day on their birthday.
  • Depending on seasonal workloads, add seasonal hours to your official benefits.
  • Open the office late or leave the office early on special days that show employees you care about their dedication to their families and personal lives too (First or last day of school, Halloween, Christmas Eve etc.)
  • If no face-to-face meetings are necessary and work can be done via laptop, establish a work-from-home policy one day a month.

Time off and having a say in determining their own work schedule can be a huge benefit for staff morale and employee retention.

Recognition

    Employees who are recognized for their contributions to the cause generally have higher levels of job satisfaction, are more likely to be motivated and exhibit better retention rates.

  • Just saying the words “thank you” goes a long way. Not a verbal appreciation type of person? Send an email. Copy the manager or supervisor to celebrate achievements up the chain of command.
  • Send monthly “Kudos Kards” to your team or department pointing out successes in the department.

Let your employees feel appreciated. The loyalty earned will take your business far beyond your wildest expectations.

Drive

    Studies show there is a huge connection between staff morale and retention.

  • Free coffee is pretty regular but how about adding water or tea in the mix? Offer healthy snacks in the break room.
  • A local chiropractor or masseuse might be willing to come in and do 10-minute chair massages for free in order to advertise their business.
  • A Free-the-Feet Friday can make employees feel right at home if work conditions allow for slippers or sandals; add a dollar amount that gets dedicated to a local non-profit.
  • Create a canine-friendly workplace – More and more companies are allowing dogs in the workplace. Companies that allow pets have reported a lower rate of absenteeism and a more productive environment.
  • Put your employee’s time first. Are there regularly scheduled meetings that confuse attendees and take up valuable time that could be used more efficiently elsewhere? Are you micro-managing when an employee has proven time and time again they are up to the task? It’s time to stop and consider that this might be sending a message to your staff that you don’t trust their skills and that their time doesn’t really matter.
  • Encourage employees to walk away from technology. Schedule a few 20-minute breaks a week to just spend time together and catch up. Form a group that would like to do a daily afternoon walk to get air and exercise.
  • Keep them happy with little things:
  • A note on their desk in the morning when they come in acknowledging a small scale success.
  • An incentive program that allows them to save up for time off or bonus pay.
  • Got Snow? Create a phone tree among your departments and allow for surprise no-snow snow days when the winter days really start to get everyone down.

Employees that feel appreciated and valued are less likely to leave their jobs.

Communication

    People like to know what is going on. Keeping employees involved and “in the loop” can help keep them satisfied. Organizations and business with open communication tend to have more loyal employees. When employee viewpoints are taken into consideration while making changes and adjustments they will continue to pay more attention to productivity and efficiency. A statement heard more often than not is … “I loved my job… just not my manager.”

  • When adding tasks to an employee’s workload be sure to ask them what is already on their plate and assist them on prioritizing what is there. Don’t expect them to read your mind.
  • How effective are your evaluation process? Most employees desire feedback on jobs done and again, including them in conversations when setting future goals will create ownership of those goals.
  • Try to keep employees informed of decisions early and explain your thought process so they understand where you’re coming from. While they might not necessarily agree with decisions made they will know that you put ample time into coming to the decision.

Highly effective organizations rely heavily on communication to meet deadlines, produce products and encourage customers and clients to return.

    Create an environment where your employees feel valued and like they are a part of the success of the business. Allow them to take on new roles and responsibilities and grow their skill set to understand the business from a more holistic point of view. Obviously, not all of these ideas fit every work environment. There are deadlines and quotas to meet and customers to keep happy. But if you can find a few that might fit with what you have going on the results will more than likely surprise you.