While overall real estate sales in Berkshire County dipped during the first half of 2019 by $4.4 million when compared to sales transacted in 2018, residential and multifamily markets both showed robust gains. This year we have transacted the highest residential sales volume on record for the past 14 years, at $158.5 million. The total number of residential sales also rose significantly, with 567 residential sales in the first two quarters of 2019. This was the second highest on record since 2004, beaten only by a banner sales year in 2017. This growth is in the central Berkshire market, with slight retractions in the northern and southern real estate markets. Multifamily sales are at the highest level since 2007, with gains in all regions.
Land and commercial sales were slightly sluggish from the previous year. It should be noted that the condo market in 2018 spiked, with more than double the average dollar volume transacted in the first six months of the year, due to a flurry of million-dollar sales in Lenox. This year, condo sales appear down but still represent the second highest sales volume since 2006. Sales rose in central Berkshire, with a decrease in northern Berkshire and a slight dip in southern Berkshire.
HOT MARKETS SO FAR THIS YEAR:
- West Stockbridge
INVENTORY OF HOMES:
Residential inventory levels remain low countywide. North county has the most inventory in the most popular selling range, yet even that market is heavy with inventory in the $500K-$1M range. There are not enough homes on the market below $250K in central Berkshire, creating a critical deficit in satisfying demand. In southern Berkshire, 19% of the homes for sale are offered at over $1 million dollars, yet less than 5% of the sales are in that price range.
Northern Berkshire single-family residential sales dipped by 3 sales compared to the previous year, but dollar volume rose by $2 million dollars. Both Adams and Williamstown report rising sales, with Adams having a record-breaking year so far in 2019. Central Berkshire, thanks to strong sales in Pittsfield and Dalton, rose 10% in the number of transactions, representing an additional 26 homes sold during the first half of 2019 compared to 2018. The dollar volume of the sales also climbed by almost 14%. Southern Berkshire residential sales had a slight retraction of 10 home sales fewer than the same time last year, and a million dollars less in sales volume. Despite the slight loss in the southern region, Alford and Lenox had remarkable gains in the number and dollar volume of residential sales. Median home prices continue to rise countywide, with the largest gain in northern Berkshire.
Condo sales so far in the 2019 calendar year are slightly slower than last year by 2 fewer units sold, and the dollar volume reflects a significant drop of 37.5%. It’s important to note that in 2018, in the first two quarters of the year, six (6) condos in Lenox sold for over $1 million dollars – very unusual. (5 at 165 Kemble St, 1 at Blossom Hill). Barring 2018, condominium sales so far this year have exceeded all previous years since 2006.
Our multifamily market is an investor’s dream, with a low barrier to entry and favorable capitalization. Overall, multifamily sales rates rose over previous years, with double digit gains in central Berkshire, single digit gains in Northern Berkshire and a slight decrease in sales in southern Berkshire. Sales rose from $9.4 million to $12.1 million dollars (29%) and from 81 properties to 84 sold countywide (4%).
In 2004 land sales peaked with 96+ parcels transacted in the first two quarters of the year. A high number of sales since 2006, steady growth is reported countywide for the first half of 2019. Southern Berkshire shows the highest gains and the majority of sales, with $4.2 million transacted in 34 parcel sales. With 59 sales countywide, overall sales activity is higher than the previous 12 years, but still less than half the sales recording during our peak in 2004, when there were 124 parcels sold in the first half of the year, valued at that time at over 14 million dollars.
While small in number, commercial sales in the first half of 2019 showed mixed results over past years. Central and southern Berkshire commercial transactions fell, while north Berkshire sales continued to surge past sales rates for the last 10 years. Please note: Not all Berkshire REALTOR-assisted commercial sales are included in the MLS database.
Pending sales going into the 3rd quarter are strong in central, modest in south, and slightly lagging in north Berkshire.
Some market indicators point to a strong real estate market for the remainder of 2019, such as the low unemployment rate at 3.6% and most especially the downward pressure on interest rates. As of the first week of June, the U.S. weekly average 30-year fixed mortgage rate was 3.82%, the lowest since September of 2017. Those rates continue to spur mortgage refinance and purchase, but inventory issues are presenting a problem in many markets, including the workforce housing market in Berkshire County. With less than two months of inventory in popular price ranges for our workforce and first-time homebuyer segments, too many would-be buyers may be either priced out, or are deciding to postpone their search until more homes in their price range come onto the market. Efforts to address a housing shortage remain critical to keeping our local economy strong, since housing represented $505 million dollars last year in the County. For the health of our communities and to promote job growth, diversity of housing stock is needed to make sure it is accessible and affordable for our residents.
Snapshot reports for northern, central and south Berkshires are below. The entire 22-page report is available here.