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Jefferson County home sales plummet during third quarter

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The plethora of new rental apartments and townhouses claimed by military families at housing complexes this summer caused Jefferson County home sales during the third quarter to slow markedly, according to Jefferson-Lewis Board of Realtors statistics.

Compared with the third quarter of 2012, Jefferson County residential sales plummeted by 18 percent, or 53 units, from 315 to 258. Year-to-date property sales as of Sept. 30 show that total home sales are down by 91 units from last year, dropping by 13 percent from 720 to 629 units.

It’s a downward trend that Lance M. Evans, executive officer of the board, attributes mainly to the widespread availability of rental apartments and townhouses built to serve the military population at Fort Drum.

“The advantage that the Preserve at Autumn Ridge and Beaver Meadows (in Watertown) have is that you can walk in and buy brand new,” Mr. Evans said. When “no one else has lived in your house yet, there’s a major difference.”

Mr. Evans said the convenience of moving into units immediately also is viewed by some buyers as an advantage over the time-consuming task of shopping for the right house. The quality of old rental apartments in the city also is improving, he said, because landlords are renovating old stock to stay competitive in a market that now has a vast range of housing options.

“Some landlords might be renovating their places and lowering the rent, because they need to offer” attractive options, he said.

Real estate brokers say that underwriters of mortgages issued by banks have stiffened their lending criteria this year, Mr. Evans said.

They say “it’s taking more work to get a property sale closed,” he said. “Property appraisers and underwriters are being tougher, because regulations have come down from Washington to make sure that we’re not selling houses that will be under water soon.”

Third-quarter home sales in Lewis and St. Lawrence counties rose from last year. Lewis County sales jumped by 15 percent, or eight units, from 52 to 60; St. Lawrence County sales increased by 9 percent, or 15 units, from 164 to 179. Year-to-date as of Sept. 30, Lewis County home sales rose by 8 percent, from 115 to 124, and St. Lawrence County sales increased 3 percent, from 398 to 409.

“If you look at what happened away from the apartments in Jefferson County, sales are better in Lewis and St. Lawrence counties.

Overall, sales have been stable in those counties over the past two years, Mr. Evans said.”

Fourth-quarter home sales in the tri-county region are expected to reflect the same trend, he said, with Jefferson County down from last year. But he said he is optimistic about the residential market in 2014, because military members who are deployed overseas less often will find buying houses attractive.

“I think you’re going to see similar pressure all around the housing market next year,” he said.

Year-to-date sales through Sept. 30 show the median home price in Jefferson County increased by 7 percent, from $147,000 to $157,000. The median home price in Lewis County decreased 4 percent, from $115,000 to $110,000, while the median price in St. Lawrence County stayed even at $80,000.

Statistics are based on home sales reported by about 340 members of the Jefferson-Lewis Board of Realtors and about 180 from the St. Lawrence Board of Realtors.

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