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2013 home sales in Jefferson, Lewis counties slide despite statewide growth

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Home sales in Jefferson and Lewis counties dropped by more than 10 percent in 2013, even though New York state sales rose to the greatest number since 2009.

Compared with 2012, statistics from the Jefferson-Lewis Board of Realtors show home sales in Jefferson County were down 98 units, or 10.1 percent, from 971 to 873; in Lewis County they were down by 20 units, or 11.2 percent, from 178 to 158.

In contrast to that regional trend, statewide home sales jumped from 2012 by 11,947 homes, or 12.6 percent, from 95,195 to 107,142, according to the New York State Association of Realtors. The median sale price increased to a new five-year high by rising 5.6 percent, or $12,000, from $215,000 to $227,000. Median home prices fluctuated slightly from 2012 in the north country. The median price increased in Jefferson County from $149,900 to $150,500, and in Lewis County from $110,000 to $111,000.

In St. Lawrence County, the median home price fell slightly in 2013, from $79,959 to $79,780, according to the county Board of Realtors. Annual home sales increased by one unit, from 554 to 555.

The drop in Jefferson and Lewis counties’ home sales in 2013 comes after the north country had a banner year for sales in 2012, said Lance M. Evans, executive officer of the board. Numbers in 2013 for both counties are closer to figures from 2011, when 862 units were sold in Jefferson County and 136 in Lewis County. In 2012, the shortage of available rental housing for the military population at Fort Drum created demand for home purchases, he said.

“There wasn’t a lot of product on the market in terms of rental housing in 2012, whereas we had a lot that come online in late 2012 and 2013,” Mr. Evans said. “A lot of it is new housing stock, and people have decided to go that way” instead of buying existing homes.

Large rental housing complexes with units that opened last summer include Beaver Meadows complex on Towne Center Drive, Watertown, where 296 units are planned, and the Preserve at Autumn Ridge on County Route 202, which calls for 394 units.

Home sales will continue to be affected by the growing rental market in the greater Watertown area, Mr. Evans said. A few projects planned downtown with market-rate rental projects will be under construction, including a complex to be built at the former Mercy Hospital site that calls for 168 units. At the Lincoln Building, 18 renovated apartments are planned on the upper floors.

Even so, buying homes still will be a competitive option for families because of low interest rates and attractive financing for mortgages, Mr. Evans said.

“At the moment, it’s still cheaper to buy than rent and can make sense if you’re looking to be here for more than a few years,” he said.

Though the north country didn’t reflect the statewide trend of growth in home sales, that is likely because it fared better than most regions during recession years after the housing bubble burst in 2006, said Savatore I. Prividera Jr., director of communications for the New York State Association of Realtors.

“After the housing boom and the recession, New York as a whole didn’t fall as much as other states like Nevada, Florida and parts of Michigan, and we’re certainly now at an upward trend statewide,” he said. “But there has been great variation, because some regions did well and others didn’t. And if you look at Jefferson and Lewis counties, they had some solid years previously and softened” in 2013.

The association is optimistic that home sales will continue to grow in 2014 based on the state’s market conditions, Mr. Prividera said. As home prices climb, potential home sellers who were waiting for the market to improve are more likely to make transactions as their confidence grows.

“Homeowners that were looking to sell feel that they can now get their home for what it’s worth,” Mr. Prividera said. Statistics show “sellers received 91.5 percent of their asking prices” in 2013.

HOME SALES
The number of houses sold, including the percentage change from the previous year:
County 2013 2012 2011
Jefferson 873 (-10%) 971 (13%) 862 (-1%) Lewis 158 (-11%) 178 (31%) 136 (even) St. Lawrence 555 (even) 554 (-1%) 562 (-15%) New York state 107k (13%) 95k (8%) 88k (-6%)
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