Costlier home sales fuel Q3 prices

STEPHEN SWOFFORD n WATERTOWN DAILY TIMES The house at 207 Elm Street sold above median price for the area. Incentives driven by economic development and home buyers purchasing more expensive homes increased the number of homes sold in Jefferson County and the median price in both Jefferson and St. Lawrence County last quarter.(Wolf story)

STEPHEN SWOFFORD n WATERTOWN DAILY TIMES
The house at 207 Elm Street sold above median price for the area. Incentives driven by economic development and home buyers purchasing more expensive homes increased the number of homes sold in Jefferson County and the median price in both Jefferson and St. Lawrence County last quarter.(Wolf story)

By Marcus Wolf
NNY Business

Incentives driven by economic development and home buyers purchasing more expensive homes increased the number of homes sold in Jefferson County and the median price in both Jefferson and St. Lawrence County in the third quarter of the year, but a loss of employment opportunities in Lewis County decreased the median price and kept the number of homes sold relatively flat.
The number of houses sold in Jefferson County increased last quarter by 80 units, or by 33 percent, from 246 to 326, according to the Jefferson-Lewis Board of Realtors. The median home price in Jefferson County also increased by $2,875, or 1.9 percent, from $148,625 to $151,500 and the median number of days on the market for a house increased by 30 days, or 49.2 percent, from 61 to 91.

Randy T. Raso, president of the Jefferson-Lewis Board of Realtors, said that the proposed missile defense site at Fort Drum encouraged more prospective home buyers to purchase homes in the area, driving up home sales last quarter.

“A lot of folks hear things like that and their first thought is ‘Should I invest in this area?’” Mr. Raso said. “I have worked with people overseas … who are interested in investing in the area.”
Foreclosed properties that investors purchased earlier this year were put back on the market and sold at higher prices, Mr. Raso said, raising both the number of units sold and the median price. For instance, a developer would renovate a house valued at $100,000 at the time of purchase and resell it for $30,000 to $40,000 more.

“They are buying them up as a deal and are fixing them to make more of a profit,” he said. “So that raised the median price. Not only does that help the city and the area, but it also increases the value of the home.”

Lance M. Evans, executive officer of both the Jefferson-Lewis and St. Lawrence boards, said that realty firms sold more single-family, year-around homes at higher prices and waterfront summer cottages last quarter. For example, one realtor, Mr. Evans said, sold a $999,999 cottage in Henderson.

“The bottom line is that in the north country real estate market homes are still priced nicely and interest rates are still low,” he said.

STEPHEN SWOFFORD n WATERTOWN DAILY TIMES The house at 215 Butterfield Avenue sold above median price for the area. Incentives driven by economic development and home buyers purchasing more expensive homes increased the number of homes sold in Jefferson County and the median price in both Jefferson and St. Lawrence County last quarter.(Wolf story)

STEPHEN SWOFFORD n WATERTOWN DAILY TIMES
The house at 215 Butterfield Avenue sold above median price for the area. Incentives driven by economic development and home buyers purchasing more expensive homes increased the number of homes sold in Jefferson County and the median price in both Jefferson and St. Lawrence County last quarter.(Wolf story)

Compared to 2015, home sales from January to September this year increased from last year in Jefferson County by 96 units, or 15.7 percent, from 611 to 707. The median price for homes for the nine month period in Jefferson County, however, decreased by $27,700, or 18 percent, from $154,000 to $126,300. The median number of days on the market is also up from 2015 by 16 days, or 21 percent, from 77 to 93.

The number of units sold in Jefferson County so far this year is up and the median price is down because of the foreclosed properties sold in the first two quarters, Mr. Evans said. Mr. Raso, however, said that more units could have been sold in Jefferson County this year.

Mr. Raso said that investors were less likely to purchase properties in the city of Watertown while City Council discussed Councilman Stephen A. Jennings’s proposed rental registration and inspection law. Under its initial version proposed in August, the law would have required landlords, including ones who operated outside of Jefferson County, to register all of their properties with the city and have them inspected once every three years.

“Investors felt like they were being penalized for a few people who did not take care of their properties in the area,” Mr. Raso said. “It put a lot of folks on hold.”
In St. Lawrence County, the number of units sold last quarter decreased from the same time in 2015 by 25 units, or 11.7 percent from 214 to 189, according to the St. Lawrence County Board of Realtors. The median price, however, increased in by $12,880, or 14.2 percent, from $91,000 to 103,880 and the median number of days on the market was down last quarter by 6 days, or seven percent, from 88 to 82.

Debra J. Gilson, president of the St. Lawrence Board of Realtors and a broker for County Seat Realty, said that having a low inventory in areas such as Canton and Potsdam could have caused a decrease in sales, although some areas like Massena still have an overabundance of units on the market. While the number of units sold was slightly down, Mrs. Gilson said waterfront property purchases drove up the median price last quarter.

“And of course, interest rates are at an all-time low,” she said.

The number of units sold from January to September this year increased from 2015 in St. Lawrence County by 15 units, or 3.2 percent, from 466 to 481. The median price increased from the same period in 2015 by $1,750, or two percent, from $87,250 to $89,000 and the median number of days was up by five days, or
5 percent, from 99 to 104.

While the second quarter was “sluggish,” Mrs. Gilson said that a strong first quarter and an influx of doctors moving to the area due to the Canton-Potsdam hospital expansion boosted the number of overall homes sold and the median price this year.

“If our market next year continues to increase, I am looking forward to a very productive 2017,” she said.

Lewis County home sales remained relatively flat last quarter compared with the third quarter in 2015 only decreasing by four units, or 6.3 percent, from 64 to 60, according to the Jefferson-Lewis County Board of Realtors. The median price also decreased in Lewis County by $22,750, or 16.5 percent, from $137,750 to $115,000 and the median number of days on the market dropped by 35 days, or 31.3 percent, from 112 to 77.

The number of units from January to September this year increased from 2015 in Lewis County by two units, or 1.3 percent, 143 to 145. The median price for 2016, however, decreased in Lewis County from 2015 by $14,500, or 12.2 percent, from $119,000 to $104,500 and the median number of days on the market dropped by 34 days, or 27 percent, from 128 to 94.

When Climax Packaging, Lowville, closed in April and laid off 157 workers, Mr. Raso said that it slowed the economy and caused a drop in both sales and the median price last quarter. For this year, Mr. Raso said that an overall lack of employment opportunities in the county affected the median price and number of units sold.

“Quite a few jobs were lost,” he said. “(People) could be a little shy about purchasing a home if the income is not there.”

Statewide, quarterly home sales have increased compared to the third quarter in 2015 by 1,054 units, or 2.8 percent, from 38,629 to 37,575, according to the New York State Association of Realtors. The third-quarter statewide median sales price was also up this year by $10,100, or 4.2 percent, from $239,900 to $250,000. The median number of days on the market stayed relatively flat, decreasing by two days, or 2.4 percent, from 84 to 82.

This year, 95,453 homes were sold, up 9,464 homes, or 11 percent, from the 85,989 sold during the same time in 2015.
The Jefferson-Lewis board has 347 Realtor members and the St. Lawrence board has 184, Mr. Evans said.