CANTON - Home sales in Jefferson and St. Lawrence counties declined sharply during the first quarter from a year ago.
St. Lawrence County home sales decreased by 42 percent, or 30 units, from 101 to 71, according to the county Board of Realtors In Jefferson County, first-quarter home sales dropped by 27 percent, or 35 units, from 165 to 130, according to the Jefferson-Lewis Board of Realtors. .
In Lewis County, however, sales jumped by 20 percent, or 6 units, from 30 to 36.
The prolonged north country winter had a tangible effect on first-quarter sales in Jefferson County, said Lance M. Evans, executive director of the Jefferson-Lewis and St. Lawrence County boards. In Jefferson and St. Lawrence counties, first quarter sales dipped close to where they were in 2011, before sales climbed the last two years.
We had the third snowiest winter in Watertown, Mr. Evans said. And this one, once it got going later in the season, just kept coming. And I think that discouraged people from looking and coming into the area, because they just couldnt get here. But what Im hearing now is that things are picking up again.
Another reason for the decrease in home sales, he said, is the influx of rental housing complexes in the Watertown area in recent years, built to accommodate strong housing demand of Fort Drums military population.
New rental product that has come on the market is still having an impact, Mr. Evans said. It takes a while for people to close on a house, where they can close on an apartment a lot faster even though the price could be a lot less to buy than rent. Renting has a convenience factor for anyone moving into the area.
Though not as greatly affected by Fort Drum, realtors in St. Lawrence County also saw a lag in first quarter sales compared with last year because of the long, harsh winter, Mr. Evans said.
First-quarter median home prices fell compared with those of a year ago in Jefferson and St. Lawrence counties. The median was down by 11 percent, or $16,750, from $152,000 to $135,250 in Jefferson County. In St. Lawrence County, the median also fell by 11 percent, or $8,000, from $76,000 to $68,000. The median increased slightly in Lewis County over the same period, jumping by $1,000 from $97,500 to $98,500.
Statewide, home sales decreased during the first quarter compared with a year ago by 1.8 percent, or 353 units, from 19,143 to 18,790, according to the New York State Association of Realtors. The first-quarter statewide median sales price was $227,000, up 5.1 percent, or $11,000, from the 2013 first quarter median of $216,000.
Sellers seemed most affected by the severe winter weather as indicated by the 7.6-percent inventory reduction, Duncan MacKenzie, CEO of the state realtors association, said in a prepared statement. New Yorks realtors expect market activity to rise along with the temperature as continued buyer demand and sales price gains entice sellers to list their homes.