Berkshire Realtors report 2015 as best year since 2006


PITTSFIELD — Following a slow start due to unusually harsh winter weather, 2015 turned out to be a profitable year for Realtor-assisted transactions in Berkshire County.

The number of sales and price volumes reached highs not seen since 2006. Single-family home sales jumped 9 percent last year, rebounding from a 2 percent drop in 2014, according to the Berkshire County Board of Realtors.

The increase in local sales mirrored numbers compiled by the Massachusetts Association of Realtors, which reported single-family home sales increased by 9.4 percent in 2015.

Statewide, single-family home sales were up 10.5 percent in 2015, according to the Warren Group of Boston, which tracks state real estate transactions.

The Berkshire County Board of Realtors only tracks Realtor-assisted transactions. The Board of Realtors tracks Realtor-assisted sales of single-family homes, multifamily residences, condominiums, lots/land, commercial properties and mobile homes.

"Obviously, we caught up," said Berkshire County Board of Realtors CEO Sandra J. Carroll, referring to the slow start in sales last winter. "The second quarter numbers started to rebound. When we hit the third quarter, they maintained their momentum."

The Berkshire County Board of Realtors tracked 1,576 sales in 2015, the highest total since 1,648 sales occurred in 2006. Dollar volume sold was $374.0 million, a sizable increase over the $337.6 million sold in 2014, and a big jump from 2011, when dollar volume fell to $263.4 million.

There were 1,185 Realtor-assisted transactions involving single-family homes last year, 117 more than the 1,068 registered in 2014, according to the Board of Realtors' figures. The dollar volume sold was $309.6 million, the first time that figure has breached the $300 million mark in at least six years.

Condominium sales were robust and increased from 85 in 2014 to 125 in 2015. The total number of dollars involved in condo sales was $32.7 million in 2015 compared to $22.8 million the year before.

In South County, the number of condo units sold soared 59 percent to 73, while sales volume leaped 62 percent to $22.7 million.

"We had a lot of inventory, and the buyers were there," said Principal Broker Mary Jane White of Cohen & White Associates in Lenox, who is also Berkshire County's MLS listings president. "Most of the buyers buying the condos were second-home owners, retirees and local homeowners downsizing."

According to White, the Board of Realtors had more than 2,000 condominium listings in December 2014 as compared to 1,100 last December.

"For us, in Berkshire County, that's a healthy inventory," she said.

The rebound was impressive due to the way 2015 started out. A series of winter storms last year, combined with the coldest February since 1943, caused Realtor-assisted sales to drop 37 percent during the first three months of 2015.

"It was the winter from hell," said 2016 Berkshire County Board of Realtors' President Maureen McFarland of MacFarland Realty Co. in Monterey. "We had something like 13 Monday storms."

But despite the drop in sales last winter, a lot was happening under the surface. Last winter's weather was so severe that it delayed inspections and other services that need to take place before a sale can close.

"The public doesn't realize that so often in real estate sales you may have a buyer under contract in the fall, and they may want to close right away, but then bad weather hits and you can't do your due diligence. That's why last winter was so extreme," White said.

"There was inventory under contract," she said. "When the weather hit, there were pending sales but those closings were put off to the second quarter because buyers needed to do their due diligence.

"I know there were Title 5s (septic tank inspections) that couldn't take place" because the ground was so cold, MacFarland said. "A lot of those [homes] closed in the second and third quarter."

The sales of single-family homes increased in both North and Central Berkshire County last year, and dropped less than a percentage point in South County.

North County showed the biggest improvement in 2015 as single-family home sales increased 24.6 percent from 179 to 223, while dollar volume jumped 38 percent to $43.6 million.

In Williamstown, the number of sales jumped 92 percent from 37 to 71 while dollar volume increased 76 percent to $24.8 million. In 2014, the sales of single family homes in Williamstown had dropped by 27.5 percent, while the dollar volume had fallen 16.8 percent.

Realtor Cindy Poulin of Alton & Westall in Williamstown attributed the increase in the 2015 numbers to a variety of ongoing North Berkshire initiatives, which include three developments in North Adams, the doubling in size of the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, and the redevelopment and expansion of the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown.

"We have an exciting time going on in our area and it's not only exclusive to Williamstown," she said. "The Clark redevelopment and expansion that went on with the Van Gogh and Nature exhibit brought thousands and thousands of people."


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