Tuesday June 29, 2010

PITTSFIELD -- The Berkshires housing market showed signs of strength last month as did the entire commonwealth, which was at least in part spurred on by federal stimulus tax incentives that are set to expire.

Single-family home sales in the Berkshires were up 23 percent last month compared with May 2009, according to The Warren Group, the publisher of Banker & Tradesman. In the first five months of this year, Berkshire single-family home sales were up 24 percent compared with the same time period last year, the numbers also showed.

Statewide, the Massachusetts Association of Realtors reported a 31.5 percent increase in sales last month compared to May 2009. The Warren Group reported a rise of 37 percent. The two organizations use different figures to make conclusions.

Both groups attribute the sales boost to the federal homebuyer tax credit, which expires on Wednesday, causing some to wonder if the housing spurt would sustain.

Both groups reported a slight increase in median home prices last month compared with May of last year.

Sandra Carroll, the CEO of the Berkshire County Board of Realtors, said her organization is not set up to track the homebuyer tax credit program, so she wasn't sure how much of an influence the program had on the Berkshires.

Carroll said the biggest increase in home sales in the Berkshires this year has been in South County.

Berkshire sales figures during the first five months of 2010 were $82.1 million, an increase from $54.6 million during the same time period last year, according to the County Board of Realtors.

"Last year was a real tough year," Carroll said. "There was a lot in the news and a lot of fear. Now people are seeing modest increases coming out of national [trends]. And people are making lifestyle changes. They don't want to wait."

Meanwhile, the number of foreclosure petitions filed in Berkshire County was down 12 percent last month compared with May 2009. But the number of petitions filed in the county so far this year has increased by 19.5 percent.

during the first five months of 2010 compared with the same time period last year, according to The Warren Group.