Property Mixed For First Six Months of 2019

Lance Evans

The first six months of 2019 have seen mixed results in terms of real estate sales in Jefferson, Lewis, and St. Lawrence counties. Overall, 2019 single family home sales are up slightly in the tri-county area, while days on the market (the time from when the listing contract is signed until the purchase offer is signed) declined when compared to January to June 2018. Depending on the location the median price for a home either stayed relatively flat or rose. It should be noted that the “median price” is the middle point for real estate prices. It is not the same as the average price. The median price is the price in the very middle of a data set, with exactly half of the houses priced for less and half priced for more. 

    Sales of other types of property (commercial, land, and multi-family) in the tri-county area declined year over year. Again depending on the county, the price and the days on the market varied. 

    Looking at Jefferson County, sales of all property and single-family homes rose slightly with an increase of 1 to 2 percent over the previous year with 582 properties selling of which 489 were single-family. The change in year to year days on the market was flat with the number for all property up a day to 127 and down a day for single-family home sales to 107. The biggest change was median price which rose 5.4 percent to $128,000 for all property types and 8 percent to $140,500 for single family units. 

    Lewis County was a different story with declines seen in the units sold and a rise in the days on the market for all property and for single-family homes. Property sales for all types dropped 26 units to 105 and days on the market increased to 214, up over a month from 2018. The price stayed about the same, declining 1 percent to a median of $90,000. The number for single-family homes were similar with a drop of 23 units year over year, a decline of about 1 percent in median price to $110,000. There was a seven day increase to time on the market to 146 days. 

    The market was mixed in St. Lawrence County. The overall number of units sold declined by over 3 percent to 334, while the median sale price also went down by about 6 percent to $80,000. A bright spot in property sales was the thirty-four day drop in time on the market to 194 days. By contrast, single family home sales increased by 9 percent to 313 units. Similar to all property sales, the price declined, however it was only a 2 percent decline to $90,000. Days on the market also fell by over a month to 184 days. 

    These figures are in line with New York State data which is similarly mixed. Statewide, the median price of single family homes increased 5.8 percent over the period in 2018. Days on the market dropped 3.7 percent and the number of units sold decreased 5.2 percent. 

    The National Association of Realtors (NAR) notes that, through May, sales for the year are down about 1.1 percent while the median price increased 4.8 percent and days on the market were flat. Narrowing it to the Northeast (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont), NAR said that this region experienced the biggest increase in sales. 

    What does this mean to buyers and sellers in our area? Overall, the tri-county market is healthy through the first six months. If the trend continues, housing sales will be equal to last year with modest increases in price and sales happening a little faster. With interest rates still relatively low, it may be a great time to buy. 

    One word of caution, in certain areas within the tri-county region, sales, median price, and/or days on the market may vary greatly from the above figures. Similarly, certain types of property or price ranges may also experience stronger or weaker sales. Your best source of information is a Realtor. He or she can give you a much more focused report that will fit your needs and desires. 

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Third Quarter Sales: Tri-county home sales drop to lowest price point

BY: Marcus Wolf
Realtors sold more homes in Jefferson and St. Lawrence counties during the third quarter last year than any third quarter in the past four years, with prospective homebuyers securing stable employment cited as the reason.

    Third quarter median home prices for both counties, however, fell to their lowest during that time as homes, particularly foreclosures, were sold at lower prices.

    “We’ve seen economic recovery in Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties,” said Lance M. Evans, executive officer of both the Jefferson-Lewis Board of Realtors and St. Lawrence Board of Realtors. “From the big downturn, unfortunately, we also had some foreclosures.”

    The number of houses sold in Jefferson County during the third quarter increased from the same time in 2016 by 34 units, or 10.3 percent, from 330 units to 364, according to the Jefferson-Lewis Board of Realtors.

    At the same time, the third quarter median home price in Jefferson County fell from the same quarter 2016 by $16,750, or about 11 percent, from $152,000 to $135,250.

    Vickie L. Staie, president of the Jefferson-Lewis Board of Realtors, said the U.S. Department of Defense has been stationing more soldiers and federal employees at Fort Drum and providing more long-term work to some current Fort Drum workers, which has led to more home purchases.

    Investors have also driven up homes sales during the third quarter by continuing to purchase foreclosed homes on the cheap and refurbishing them to later sell at a higher value, which has also lowered the median price.

     “I think it’ll have a great effect. We’re eliminating many zombie homes in our area,” Mrs. Staie said.

    Zombie properties are homes that owners abandoned after they stopped paying the mortgage and before banks began the foreclosure process.

    Homes sales during the third quarter in St. Lawrence County were up from the same time in 2016 by 23 units, or 11.3 percent, from 204 units to 227, according to St. Lawrence Board of Realtors.

    The third quarter median home price in the county fell from the same quarter in 2016 by $7,250, or 7.2 percent, from $101,250 to $94000.

    Richard J. Wood, president of the St. Lawrence Board of Realtors, said the Canton-Potsdam Hospital expansion continued to bring more homebuyers to the county. Several people also moved from a different home within the county to expand or downsize, which also drove up homes sales.

    “I think it has a lot to do with the length of time on the market,” Mr. Wood. “People want to wrap stuff up before it gets to the cold weather.”

    Prospective buyers also bought several foreclosed properties in the county, which Mr. Wood, who owns RJ Wood Real Estate LLC in Gouverneur, said brought down the median price.

“I’ve seen homes go right now that have sold for $10,000,” he said.

    Unlike Jefferson and St. Lawrence counties, home sales in Lewis County remained relatively flat in the third quarter compared to the same time in 2016.

    The number of houses sold in Lewis County decreased slightly from the same time in 2016 by two units, or about 3.3 percent, from 61 to 59.

    The median home price for the third quarter in Lewis County, however, decreased from the same quarter in 2016 by $20,000, or 17.4 percent, from $115,000 to $95,000.

    Mrs. Staie, who also owns Staie on the Seaway Real Estate Services LLC and Appraisals USA in Alexandria Bay, said several sellers’ asking prices were too much when compared to their market value, which keeps them on the market for a while. Many homes that sold during the third quarter were winter camps and cottages.

    “That brought (the median price) down a bit,” she said.

    Home sales from January to September last year increased from the same time in 2016 in all three counties. 

    The number of houses sold during the first three quarters increased in Jefferson County by 130 homes, or 18.3 percent, from 711 to 841; in Lewis County by 13 homes, or 8.9 percent, from 146 to 159, and in St. Lawrence County by 63 homes, or 12.7 percent, from 496 homes to 559.

    Foreclosure and waterfront home sales drove up the number of units sold last year in Jefferson County, Mrs. Staie said. The Kraft-Heinz plant expansion in Lowville led more people to buy homes in Lewis County, she said.

    “I think people are seeing the advantage of buying over renting,” Mr. Evans said. “It looks like we’re going to have a lot higher number for units sold than we had in previous years.”

    The median price for homes during the first three quarters of 2017 in Jefferson and Lewis counties, however, fell compared to the same time last year.

    The median home price for the first three quarters this year decreased in Jefferson County by $3,500, or 2.5 percent, from $138,500 to $135,000, and in Lewis County by $15,500, or 14.7 percent, from $90,000 to $105,500. Both price drops were driven by foreclosure sales, Mr. Evans said.

    “There are always foreclosures. There will always be foreclosures,” Mr.  Evans said.

    The median price in St. Lawrence County for the first three quarters of 2017, however, has remained relatively flat for the past four years.

    The price for the first three quarters of 2017 only increased by $1,000, or 1.3 percent, from $88,000 to $89,000.

    “We don’t have huge jumps,” in price, Mr. Wood said.

    Statewide, home sales in the third quarter decreased from the same quarter in 2016 by 1,248 units, or 3.1 percent, from 39,693 units to 38,445 units, according to the New York State Association of Realtors. The statewide third-quarter median home price, however, was up this year by $12,500, or five percent, from $249,000 in 2015 to $261,500.


The Difference Between Appraisals & Assessments

Lance Evans

BY: Lance Evans

In August, I wrote about assessments.  You may recall that assessments are opinions of value.  An assessor looks at all of the properties in a municipality and comes up with general values that are a component in computing the real property tax. While properties are treated similarly, assessments allow for differences like square footage, lot size, and general condition and upkeep. These variations can affect the assessment.

    How does this differ from how an appraiser works and how does an appraisal end up affecting the price paid for a property?

    Similar to an assessment, an appraisal is an opinion of value.  However, instead of looking at many properties within a jurisdiction, appraisers look at one property (subject property) and then find comparable sales (“comps”) that are like the subject property.  Ideally, comps are within a few miles and have sold within the past six months.  Like the assessor, an appraiser adjusts for differences in lot size, square footage, heating systems, etc. between the subject property and the comps to come up with a value. There is no set rule for what adjustments must be made. It is up to the appraiser’s judgement.  Adjustments are based on market reactions to amenities, features, or land size of a property.  Unique property types throw a whole other set of variables, so there is not a “cookie cutter” approach. 

    An appraisal usually varies from an assessment for several reasons. First of all, you may recall that the City of Watertown actually assesses at 92% of value. This means that a house that might be worth $100,000 would be assessed at $92,000. Other municipalities use different percentages.

    The other reason that there may be a difference is that appraisers are using data that is short term (6 months or less) and may cross municipal lines.  This means that an appraiser who has a subject property on the edge of a municipality might be using comps from a nearby town.  These would not figure into the assessor’s decision making process.

    In the North Country, the “6 month rule” does not always hold. Joel Howie, JC Howie Appraisals in Canton, noted that “One thing I consider in St. Lawrence County is a larger ‘market area’ or neighborhood when looking for comps. I may go outside an individual municipality to a competing neighborhood for comps. Because of the sparse population and diverse housing stock, I also may need to consider sales up to 18-24 months. Also, I may be appraising a modern colonial in Canton and I may need to consider a Potsdam sale in order to find sufficient sales data.”

    As I pointed out last month, an assessor works for a municipality.  Appraisers are generally self-employed and work for a variety of clients including lenders, private companies, and individuals.

    Much of an appraiser’s work is contracted by lenders.  The purpose of the appraisal might be for loan approval for a buyer or when a property owner refinances a mortgage.  The lender is required to use a variety of appraisers on a rotating basis and are not allowed to specify a certain appraiser.  However, the list can be limited based on an appraiser’s certification and approvals.  For instance, an appraiser needs to apply to be Veteran’s Administration (VA) certified.

    So what education is needed for appraisers? Like assessors, appraisers have taken special training to get licensed or certified. In addition to course work, they must work with a licensed or certified appraiser for a period of time.  After being licensed, appraisers take twenty-eight hours of Continuing Education every two years. A portion of this education is in Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP).

    Property owners can also hire an appraiser.  The owner may want to find out what his or her property is worth prior to selling the property, it may be needed to help settle an estate, or the owner may want to check the worth against an assessment.

    Appraisals are usually effective as of the date of inspection.  Assessments are based on an earlier date usually as of the date the roll was submitted, which depending on that date could be nearly 2 years prior to the current date. In an increasing or decreasing market, assessment and a current appraisal may be quite different.

    So what is the difference between the assessor’s job and that of an appraiser?  Simply put, the assessor looks at the “forest” of properties and the appraiser looks at individual “trees.”

    In my August article, Last month I made an error in my article on assessment. I stated that if the assessment is $10 per thousand dollars then a property assessed at $92,000, the bill would be $92.  It would be $920.

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September 2016: Top Transactions

The following property sales were recorded in the Jefferson County Clerk’s Office in August:

$665,000: Aug. 30, Town of Watertown: Four parcels, 0.5548 acres, 231-233 Goodale St., Franklin St., 26-44 Public Square and 124-132 Franklin St., Myron Kehoe, Watertown, Kehick Development LLC, East Syracuse, and Kehoe Development LLC, East Syracuse, sold to Watertown Holdings LLC, Watertown.

$460,000: Aug. 19, Town of Orleans: Two parcels, 1.581 acres, Lake of the Isles, Fred H. Shafer and Primrose M. Shafer, Wellesley Island, sold to Todd W. Cowman and Cindy Bowman, Camden.

$450,000: Aug. 19, Village of Alexandria Bay: 0.545 acres, 5 Fuller St., 5 Fuller St., LLC, Alexandria Bay, sold to CF Coffeen LLC, Alexandria Bay.

$325,000: Aug. 18, town of Clayton: No acreage listed, Lot. No. 4, Block No. 1, Roosevelt Highway Tract, Darcy J Joncas, Taveres, Fla., sold to Potter Boulevard LLC, Clayton.

$303,000: Aug. 8, Town of Orleans: 0.5 acres, Clayton-Alexandria Bay Road, Martin W. Ham, Roanoke, Va., as trustee of the Philip W. Ham and Janice P. Ham Revocable Living Trust Agreement, sold to Mark G. Nowak, Syracuse.

$300,000: Aug. 5, Town of Clayton: 0.13 acres, 538 Riverside Drive, 538 Water Street Corp., Clayton, sold to Village of Clayton, Clayton.

$279,000: Aug. 2, Town of LeRay: 11.49 acres, County Route 16, Nicholas O. Sherwood by his attorney, Karen Ernest, Watertown, and Stephanie L. Sherwood, Evans Mills, sold to Jeffrey D. Foster and Amebr R. Foster, Middletown, R.I.

$275,000: Aug. 2, Town of Watertown: 3.7 acres, town road from Burrville to Middle Road, J. Patrick Campbell and Debra Campbell, Watertown, sold to David C. Meade and Joelle R. Meade, Watertown.

$275,000: Aug. 17, Town of LeRay: 0.504 acres, Lot No. 19, Riverbend Estates, state Route 3, Christopher Sean Cannon and Amanda M. Cannon, Watertown, sold to Peter M. Ward and Lauren A. Ward, Columbia, S.C.

$268,500: Aug. 11, Town of LeRay: 0.573 acres, Cullen Drive, Jason E. Walters and Heather Walters, Watertown, sold to Kevin G. Bischof and Erica L. Bischof, Watertown.

The following property sales were recorded in the St. Lawrence County Clerk’s Office in August:

$450,000: Aug. 9, Village of Potsdam: Parcel 1) 0.64 of an acre more or less, Parcel 2) Unknown acres, bounded by Market and Garden streets, Parcel 3) Unknown acres, bounded by Pierrepont Ave., Parcel 4) 2.97 acres more or less, bounded by Elm St., B.H. Properties Inc., Potsdam, sold to Clark R. Porter, Gouverneur.

$400,000: Aug. 2, Town of Canton: 4 acres more or less, Lot 1, bounded by Ames Road, Neil J. St. Andrews Jr., Colton, sold to The Bicknell Corporation, Potsdam.

$365,000: Aug. 12, Town of Waddington: 0.353 of an acre more or less, bounded by St. Lawrence River Road, Westbrook Bates and Olga Margaret Roman Bates, Waddington, sold to David W. and Julie F. McBath, Waddington.

$350,000: Aug. 11, Village of Norwood: Parcel 1) 0.415 of an acre more or less, bounded by River Street, Parcel 2) 0.54 of an acre more or less, bounded by Spring Street, Parcel 3) 0.292 of an acre more or less, bounded by Spring Street, also in Town of Potsdam: Parcel 1) 0.126 of an acre more or less, Mile Square 10, bounded by Spring Street, Marisa G Perry (executor), Jennifer L Kain, Standish, sold to Gilchrist IV Enterprises LLC, Norwood.
$337,500: Aug. 8, Town of Waddington: 0.345 of an acre more or less, bounded by River Road, Terry K. and Esther M. Alsup, Waddington, sold to Troy F. and Erin E. Groebler, Brasher Falls.

$249,000: Aug. 1, Town of Potsdam: 1.5 acres more or less, Miel Square 68, bounded by Outer Main Street, Christopher and Teresa Stone, Potsdam, sold to Anthony K. And Kristen S. Betrus, Potsdam.

$245,000: Aug. 8, Town of Morristown: 0.75 of an acre more or less, Lot 35, bounded by Blackstone Bay Road East, Marjorie Hamann, Rochester, sold to Dennis and luAnne Murphy, Morristown.

$227,000: Aug. 1, Town of Canton: 16.298 acres more or less, bounded by Hale’s Lot, Joseph L. and Normadine D. Kennedy, Daytona Beach, Fla., sold to Steven G. and Cara Dodge Coffin, Lisbon.

$225,000: Aug. 1, Town of Hammond: 3 acres more or less, bounded ny Little Chippewa Point, Richard and Linda Johnson, Rochester, sold to Little Chippewa Point, LLC, N.Y.

$183,350: Aug. 1, Town of Pierrepont: 0.6678 of an acre more or less, bound by the Underhill Drive, Kelly P. Bush, Hannawa Falls, sold to Richard N. Raymondville.