County home sales down 5% in 2011

Monday February 6, 2012

PITTSFIELD -- Residential real estate sales in Berkshire County dropped 5 percent in 2011, but they remained above the level registered in 2009 when the local market bottomed out, according to the Berkshire County Board of Realtors.

According to the board’s 2011 market summary, 828 residential real estate sales occurred in Berkshire County last year, compared to 876 in 2010 when the amount increased by 7 percent. In 2009, there were 821 total sales, which represented a 10 percent drop from the year before.

The board’s numbers differ from those of the Warren Group of Boston, the publisher of Banker & Tradesmen. According to their numbers, the sales of single family homes in the Berkshires declined by 8.6 percent, from 1,046 in 2010 to 956 last year.

Statewide, single-family home sales dropped by 6 percent to 38,994 in 2011, the lowest amount of annual sales registered since 1990, according to the Warren Group.

Berkshire County Board of Realtors CEO Sandra J. Carroll said the Warren Group’s numbers are based on a different formula.

"They give you information for every recorded deed change," Carroll said. "Our statistics typically only include things that are marketed to the public, things on the Internet or in the newspaper. We don’t represent every deed transfer."

According to the Warren Group, the median sales price for Berkshire County single-family homes declined by 2.7 percent to $175,000 last year. According to the Berkshire County Board of Realtors, last year’s median sales price for residential real estate dropped by 7 percent to $255,958.

The total number of sales in the Berkshires, $211.9 million, declined 13 percent from 2010 after rising 19 percent from 2009.

Realtor Andy Perenick of ReMax Integrity in Pittsfield said sales of Berkshire County residential real estate began well in 2011, but tailed off during the spring and summer.

"It wasn’t as strong as we had hoped it would be, to be honest," said Perenick, who is also the president of the Berkshire County Board of Realtors’ multiple listing service. "We’re still optimistic. The numbers still show improvement over 2009."

Carroll said the 2010 numbers were also affected by consumers who bought houses through the First Time Homebuyers Credit Program, which expired on Sept. 30 of that year. Congress had approved that program in November 2009 to try and stimulate the housing market.

"Some of the rise is due to that," she said.

Sales of condominiums, multi-family homes, and lots or land in the Berkshires also declined in 2011, according to the Berkshire County Board of Realtors statistics. Sales of commercial property, however, increased by 41 percent in the Berkshires last year after experiencing no growth in 2010. Total sales increased by 130 percent, to $10.6 million. It’s an interesting statistic considering that the commercial tax rates in Pittsfield and North Adams are among the highest in the state.

Although the Board of Realtors doesn’t record every commercial transaction in its database, it believes the number of units transacted and the amount of total sales shows that businesses in the county are expanding and reinvesting.

One bright spot in the Berkshire market occurred in South County. According to Berkshire County Board of Realtors President Chapin Fish, the median sales price in that area for residential real estate increased from $290,000 to $294,000 last year.

"By far the strongest segment of the market," said Fish of William Brockman Real Estate in Monterey.

Condominium sales were also up in Southern Berkshire, a major reason why the total number of sales jumped 25 percent to $20.5 million, and the median sales price countywide rose 46 percent to $336,925.

Land sales in South County also rose by 30 percent in 2011, even though total land and lot sales countywide dropped by 22 percent.

The sales of multi-family homes fell in Northern and Southern Berkshire last year, but experienced a double-digit increase in the Central Berkshire region.

The board had anticipated a rise in the Central Berkshire multi-family housing market last year after General Dynamics announced it would significantly increase its work force due to its new combat ship contract with the U.S. Navy.

"We thought it would improve because of the General Dynamics announcement," Carroll said. "A lot of people didn’t want to commit to a home sale."

To reach Tony Dobrowolski:
(413) 496-6224
On Twitter: @tonydobrow


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