Maple And Main

What's with the Low Inventory of Homes for Sale in Northampton?

LOW INVENTORY OF SINGLE FAMILY HOMES FOR SALE

According the the MLSPIN (Pioneer Valley chapter of MLS), there were 61 single family homes listed for sale between March 1st and May 1st of 2016 alone. Here we are in mid April of 2017, and there are only 45 single family homes on the market in Northampton. Some of these are new construction opportunities, and some are already under agreement. 

Pictured Above, 32 Liberty Street in Northampton, MA

Agents within our office have anecdotes of packed open houses, with multiple offers being submitted and buyers being outbid on the few houses that have come on the market this spring. This article from realestate.boston.com confirms that housing inventory in Massachusetts is at an all-time low.

Whatever the factors are behind the dearth of new single-family listings - the fact is that now is a great time to sell! Buyers are eager to buy, interest rates are still low. So, if you are a seller thinking about possibly selling your home - the first step is to reach out to your agent to find out what our opinion of market value would be. There is no question that the demand is high, and many houses are selling for above asking price in this climate. Contact us today to set up your comparative market analysis!

Two Elegant Homes For Sale in the Smith College Neighborhood of Northampton, MA

Spring is upon us, and, as per usual for the *spring market*, we are starting to see more houses on the market in Northampton and the surrounding areas. There are a handful of grand, high-end houses available right now for buyers who are looking in the $1,000,000 and above price range. We have two listings in the Smith College neighborhood which fit the bill! Spacious, elegant, glorious homes within walking distance to Northampton Center. 

91 Round Hill Road :This superb and rare top-tier property was built in 2008 and is located in the most desirable Smith College neighborhood, moments to the rich cultural, dining and shopping attractions of downtown Northampton. Extraordinary level of quality and finish throughout with dramatic architecture featuring a soaring two-story entry way, columns and arches, cathedral-ceilinged open kitchen, dining and great room with a grand stone fireplace. Magnificent chef's quality kitchen with double Wolf stove. Illuminated tray ceilings in the foyer and dining room, main floor master bathroom with a Japanese soaking tub and whimsical curved shower. Elegant office with wood paneling and fireplace. The lower level contains 2 more bedrooms and an open plan kitchen and living room ideal for entertaining, guests or in-laws. State of the art heating and cooling systems, high capacity generator and oversized 2-car garage. Offered for $1,700,000. Contact Julie Held for showings.

 

 

 

27 Norfolk Avenue One of the most distinctive and elegant houses in Northampton. On 1.6 acres near Child's Park, this captivating 1 story California-style contemporary has 5000 s.f.—including a recent 1250 s.f. addition. It offers gracious and light-filled open spaces, blended seamlessly with the private living areas with 5/6 bedrooms, 3 full and 2 half baths. The entry guides you into the living room, illuminated by oversized windows that look out on a serene, professionally-landscaped garden on one side and a stone patio on the other. The spacious chef's kitchen has a large island, abundant lighting, granite counters and custom cabinets. One wing of the house has 3 bedrooms, full bath and den/media space. The owner's wing includes an office, bedroom with built-ins, walk-in closet with skylight and en suite bath. Through the library, you enter the final wing with a suite of rooms including a large den, laundry room and half bath, serene multi-purpose space and large bedroom with bath. Minutes to town! Offered at $1,370,000. Contact Julie Held to schedule a showing.

Great Items to Spruce up Your Kitchen and Home!

Recently we've been drooling over recipes and home decor ideas from the Food52.com website. If you are a homeowner who enjoys unique decor and kitchen items, or someone who loves to cook, it's a great website to peruse! 

As we have written in previous posts, it's not always necessary to completely overhaul or renovate a home in need of some cosmetic updates. You can do a lot with paint, wallpaper and decor to give your home, or rooms within your home, an updated and fresh appearance. This recent post shows four gorgeous new patterns of "easy on, easy off" adhesive wallpaper. What a great way to transform a room with one accent wall and no long term commitment!

Easy On Easy Off Wallpaper from Food52.com

Photo by James Ransom "Hojos Cubanos" pictured above

 

A statement item, such the Mediterranean Vinyl Kitchen Mat can help brighten up a monochromatic space. It looks like Mediterranean tile, and provides cushioning in high traffic areas such as the kitchen where tend to spend a lot of time on your feet. A small investment to help freshen a well-used area in your home. 

Looks as if we are going to be indoors for longer than we hoped this winter, given the recent No'r-Easter "Stella" who just dumped a bunch of snow on Northampton and the Northeast. These wire plant stands are perfect for bringing your indoor/outdoor plants in for the winter - while creating a lovely indoor garden scene, vs. a cluttered-looking corner of the house.

And for the DIY person in your life, here is a great selection of gifts from the Food52 online store. One example is:

Pictured above is the DIY deluxe Hot Sauce kit

 

 Just some helpful hints from your friendly, neighborhood real estate agency, Maple and Main Realty in Florence MA : )

Shaw's Motel Demolished to Make Way for New Condominiums in Downtown Northampton

The historic Shaw's Motel was demolished on Monday, December 20th, to make way for 12 new condominiums in downtown Northampton, MA. It's exciting to contemplate how this will change the landscape of our fair city!

Though the Shaw's Motel had become an eyesore along Bridge Street leading into downtown Northampton, MA due to many years of neglect - some Northampton locals in the proceeding article wax nostalgic about the hotel and the era it represented to them - most notably, the great compassion of Josephine Shaw, former owner of the hotel.

Former Shaw’s Motel demolished 

By AMANDA DRANE

Tuesday, December 20, 2016 - Daily Hampshire Gazette

Shaw's Motel

PHOTO CREDIT: GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING​

NORTHAMPTON — On Monday Shaw’s Motel went the way of one of many words spray-painted on the dilapidated building’s front side — to “dust.”

Condos will soon replace the iconic former motel, which long served as a sanctuary to the city’s mentally ill under the compassionate reign of Josephine Shaw before it was condemned in 2012.

Charlie Arment Trucking Inc. demolished the former motel and began dismantling a garage behind it on Monday. Work continues Tuesday, said Building Commissioner Louis Hasbrouck, as the company takes down the large, white multifamily Pomeroy Terrace home adjacent to the property at 87 Bridge St.

Hampden County businessman Matthew Campagnari, who bought the properties in July 2015, said he’ll construct three duplexes on the former motel site and the adjacent lot. For a total of 12 condos, he said he’s also renovating the yellow building at the corner of Pomeroy Terrace and Bridge Street.

As for the famous Shaw’s sign, Campagnari said he certainly won’t throw it away.

The Monday demolition stopped traffic as passers-by stopped to gawk and take pictures from car windows. Sounds of breaking glass echoed through the city’s Ward 3 as an excavator’s toothed arm reached past the structure, reducing ever more of it to a pile of jagged edges. Dust billowed.

A bird of prey circled overhead as Shaw’s made its last stand. The old motel may have taken years to build, but it only took about 45 minutes to take down.

For Charlie Arment employees, the destruction was business as usual.

“They all fall the same,” supervisor Otis Porter said as he helped guide the excavator.

While many hailed the demolition as a positive move for the city, longtime neighborhood residents reflected on what they call the “end of an era.”

Hasbrouck said the rotting building was erected during the 1800s, and Donald and Josephine Shaw opened it as Shaw’s Motel in 1951.

Jerry Budgar, a Bridge Street resident who grew up in the neighborhood, said the building coming down Tuesday used to be his grandparents’ house.

“Frankly, I have never spent a day on this Earth that that motel wasn’t there,” said Budgar, 70. “It certainly is the end of an era.”

Budgar said Josephine Shaw, who provided low-cost housing to dozens of mentally ill tenants from the 1960s through the ’90s, showed kindness when the state turned a cold shoulder to the city’s institutionalized patients.

The state hospital on Village Hill closed in the early ’90s, but the gradual process of emptying its wards began long before.

“She became mother, confessor and mentor and everything else,” he said, adding she’d stroll around the property, always with tenants in tow. “She looked like mother duck and her goslings.”

He said for many people who had nowhere else to go, the motel was home and Shaw was family.

“She was a great lady — she had a heart the size of Wyoming,” he said. “You don’t have people like that around too much these days.”

Shaw died at 95 in 2013.

Budgar said the motel did what the state failed to do — house and help those in need of nurturing.

“Why did the state just basically open the door, throw them onto the street and leave them there?” he asked. “To me it was almost criminal what happened. They were wandering the street. They didn’t know what to do — they just weren’t prepared for life.”

Neighborhood resident Julianna Tymoczko, 41, said watching the city’s more eccentric personalities from the vantage point of her childhood home on Pomeroy Terrace shaped her understanding of the mentally ill. On Monday she recalled the “suntan man,” a former resident of the Shaw’s who she said would sunbathe shirtless on Main Street in all seasons.

“It certainly colors my whole perspective on mental health care and treatment in this country,” she said of growing up near Shaw’s.

The memories are bittersweet, but Ward 3 City Councilor Jim Nash called new developments at the old Shaw’s property a force for good.

“I think neighbors by and large are happy to see development move forward,” he said. “This is a step forward.”

Hasbrouck said there’s no arguing the motel, whose last tenant left six years ago, was in ghastly condition, but still, watching it come down, he couldn’t help but feel somber.

“I’m always sad to see buildings come down,” he said. “They’d outlived their usefulness, but it’s still sad. Part of what’s sad is to see the memories associated with it go away.”

Amanda Drane can be contacted at adrane@gazettenet.com.

45 Spaulding Street, Amherst MA

Charming, updated 5 bedroom farmhouse, spacious and beautiful yard with lovely plantings, heated workshop/studio. All of this just a stone's throw from Amherst center! Our listing at 45 Spaulding Street is a gem of a home. Listing agent Scott Rebmann with be hosting an open house this Sunday, September 11th from 12-2 pm. Come take a look! A home this special will not last long!

45 Spaulding Street, Amherst MA

View from the street

Cozy side porch

Updated farmhouse eat-in kitchen

Master bedroom

Adjacent studio/loft

 

Beautifully sited on a nearly 1/2 acre lot, this classic farmhouse has retained its period charm while having today's modern updates. A gorgeous side sunporch welcomes you into the expanded dining room/kitchen area, updated with new cabinets, a farmhouse sink and lovely butler's pantry. Beautiful hardwoods lead you to the living room and a bedroom/office and updated bath round out the main floor. Upstairs are 4 additional bedrooms and a hall bath. The rear deck overlooks the beautiful yard with perennial gardens and fruit trees. There's also a heated studio space with a loft, perfect for the artist, writer, or entrepreneur. Do you want chickens? There's even a newer chicken coop! The updates are numerous...newer slates on the roof with copper flashing, new kitchen/dining room, new upstairs windows, new insulation, new gas boiler and radiators...the list goes on and on. All of this and you're just moments from all of the shopping, dining and entertainment venues of downtown Amherst! Offered at $425,000. 

Pioneer Valley Fourth of July Fireworks Schedule

Happy Independence Day weekend! In case you missed the annual Northampton Family Fourth Celebration on June 25th, we wanted to give you a chance to catch some fireworks this holiday weekend. To follow is a list of Fourth of July celebration venues throughout the Commonwealth. Luckily, there are a number of places to enjoy fireworks in the Northampton area so you won't have to travel far!

We at Maple and Main Realty, wish you a safe, enjoyable and relaxing holiday weekend!

This schedule was reprinted from masslive.com

By Ray Kelly | rkelly@repub.com 

Massachusetts skies will be lit in celebration of Independence Day with fireworks displays in the days before and following the Fourth of July.

Here are some of the more notable planned pyrotechnic displays:

Friday, July 1

Auburn – Pappas Recreation Complex, dusk (Rain date, July 2)

Mashpee – Mashpee High School , dusk 

Northbridge  Northbridge Middle School, 9:15 p.m.

Taunton  Hamilton Street, 9 p.m.

Webster – Memorial Beach, 9 p.m.

Saturday, July 2

Agawam – Six Flags New England, dusk

Greenfield – Beacon Field, dusk  (Rain date: July 3)

Halifax - Halifax Elementary School, dusk

Westfield – South Middle School, dusk

Worcester – Cristoforo Colombus Park, 9:30 p.m.

 

Sunday, July 3

Agawam – Six Flags New England, dusk

Andover – Andover High School, dusk

Attleboro – Cyril Brennan Middle School, 9:20 p.m.

East Longmeadow  East Longmeadow High School, 10 p.m.

Gloucester  Stage Fort Park, 9 p.m.

Haverhill  Riverside Park, 9:15 p.m.

Lynn  Red Rock Park, 9:15  p.m. (Rain date: July 6)

Milford  Memorial Park, dusk  

Millbury  Windle Field, 9:45 p.m.

Nantucket  Jetties Beach, dusk

Needham  Needham High School/ Memorial Park, 9:30 p.m.

Randolph – Randolph High School, dusk

South Hadley – Michael E. Smith Middle School, dusk (Rain date, July 5)

Monday, July 4

Agawam – Six Flags New England, dusk

Amherst  McGuirk Stadium, 9:30 p.m.

Barnstable – Lewis Bay, dusk

Boston – DCR Esplanade, 10:30 p.m.

Bridgewater – Legion Field, 9:30 p.m.

Edgartown – Harbor, dusk

Falmouth – Falmouth Heights Beach, dusk

Lowell – LeLacheur Park, 9 p.m. (Rain date, July 5)

Marblehead  Marblehead Harbor, 9 p.m.

Middleborough – Pierce Playground, dusk

Millbury  Windle Field, 9:45 p.m. (Rain date: July 5)

New Bedford  State Pier, 9 p.m.

Newton  Albemarle Road, dusk (Rain date, July 5)

North Adams – Joe Wolfe Field, 9:30 p.m.

Pittsfield – Wahconah Park, dusk

Provincetown - Provincetown Harbor, dusk

Springfield – Memorial Bridge, 9:30 p.m.

Waltham  Leary Field, 9:30 p.m.

Friday, July 8

Pittsfield – Wahconah Park, dusk

Sunday, July 10

Enfield, Conn. – Town Green, 9:45 p.m.

Past events:

 

 

 

2 Beautiful Homes for Sale in the Smith College Neighborhood of Northampton!

Boston Magazine recently mentioned our fair city in a comparison of real estate prices between Northampton vs. Boston. It's no surprise that you get MUCH more bang for your buck in the Pioneer Valley! To that end, we wanted to bring our reader's attention to two very special Maple and Main Realty listings that are for sale in the same desirable Smith College neighborhood mentioned in the Boston Magazine article!

 

25 Harrison Avenue, Northampton MA. Offered at $798,000

Gracious and comfortable Victorian beauty on a tree-lined street in one of the most desirable neighborhoods near Smith College, minutes to town. The front wrap around porch welcomes you into the elegant entry foyer with stained glass, turned railings on staircase, 10 foot ceilings, and pocket doors. With almost 4000 square feet of living space, there are 6 bedrooms, 3.5 baths, which includes a legal accessory apartment. 1st floor has a formal living room and a family room that opens to the dining room with fireplace. The updated kitchen with Ashfield stone countertops has 2 pantries and exterior access to a porch and side yard. 2nd floor includes 4 bedrooms, including a master with its own bathroom and the 3rd floor has 2 bedrooms, kitchen and living room. Intricate details throughout the house including elaborate door knobs, exterior and interior trim, 4 sets of pocket doors, bay windows, screened second floor porch. Lovely landscaped yard and 1-car garage. 

Listed by Julie Held and Kate Iles

 

 

 

94 Crescent Street, Northampton MA. Offered at $875,000

Rare and elegant Craftsman style home majestically sits on a hill in the coveted Smith College area, minutes to Northampton's vibrant downtown. Rich with original details, the house features custom built-ins, beamed ceiling, french doors that open to a grand front porch, spacious dining room with china closet and fireplace, den with window seat and built-ins. A large butlers pantry serves as a mudroom and laundry room. The newly remodeled eat-in kitchen has granite counters and stainless appliances with dining area that overlooks the private landscaped patio. On the 2nd floor there is a large master bedroom suite with tiled bath plus an east facing sunroom/sitting room with working fireplace. 3 additional bedrooms and a tiled bath with shower and separate tub complete the 2nd floor.The 3rd floor has 2 additional bedrooms and a full bath. 2 car garage with an attached shed for bikes and gardening tools. Exquisite yard is a private oasis filled with perennial beds, a gardeners dream!

Listed by Julie Held

 

New Listing! 27 Pelham Road, Belchertown MA

New Maple and Main Realty listing at 27 Pelham Road, Belchertown MA!

This home gives you the best of both worlds. A quiet setting on just under 5AC with gardens, hiking paths, and a chicken coop...yet it's 12 minutes from Amherst center. Inside this 2003 Post & Beam home, you'll find a vaulted living room, accented by custom stone work surrounding a Jøtul Wood Stove, a spacious and updated kitchen with new granite counters and stainless appliances, and an open dining room with a Harmon pellet stove and cozy reading nook. A guest room and full bath round out the main level and upstairs are the master bedroom, full bath with laundry, 3rd bedroom and a loft library space overlooking the living room. The walkout basement has ample storage with a bonus family room. Now for the 1,600 sq ft studio...currently a photography studio, it has radiant heat concrete floors, a loft office space, half bath and additional heated garage space with workshop...perfect for an artist, writer, professor or home business. The upgrades are numerous and the setting is idyllic, Offered at $425,000

Open houses this weekend, June 4th and 5th from 12-2 pm. If you can't make it to the open houses, contact listing agent Scott Rebmann to schedule a showing today!

 

Beautifully landscaped front yard

 


Gorgeous post and beam construction. Spacious eat-in kitchen

 

Cozy living room with wood burning stove

 

Beautiful barn/studio ideal for someone who needs to work from home

 

 

Spacious Barn/Studio interior

 

 

 

Gorgeous Condo Available in the Historic Draper Mansion in downtown Northampton MA

When local Northampton, MA hotelier, John Draper, built his family home at 2 Pomeroy Terrace in 1895, he spared no expense. Parquet floors, hand carved mantels, dental moldings, copper tower roof, pocket doors, floating ballroom floor and a billiard room are some of the lovely details included in the home. He hosted a competition, inviting 3 local architects to submit their designs for the mansion, ultimately deciding upon the design of Curtis G. Page as his architect. The details of this magnificent Queen Anne Victorian mansion were completed by master craftsmen from Europe. 

The Drapers lived in the house for over 60 years. It was sold and converted into a funeral home in 1935 after the death of Mr and Mrs Draper, and remained as such until it's purchase by Earl and Nancy Rolland in 1976. The Rollands restored the mansion to it's original beauty, converting it into a 6 unit apartment complex. In 1988, it was sold once again, and enlarged with a beautiful addition along the back, stylistically in keeping with the original architectural details. At this time, it was converted to condominiums.

Unit 3 at 2 Pomeroy Terrace is the largest of 7 owner-occupied units in the building, with the most original character contained within it's four walls. From original wavy glass windows (with modern day storms in place) in the circular sitting area in the living room, to parquet floors, pocket doors separating living from dining room, dental moldings and an original fireplace with a hand carved mantel, this home has all the charm and character that it's original owner intended. In addition, the exterior walls have blown in insulation making the home a quiet refuge in downtown Northampton,. The beautiful custom eat-in kitchen (surrounded by two walls of double pane casement windows) was built in 2005. The current owners have replaced the hot water heat as well as the windows in the lower level.

This spacious unit has 2 bedrooms, 1.5 baths, laundry, mud entrance with wrought iron staircase and landing, leading to the stone paver walkway, back yard and 1 car garage bay. The lower level has beautiful exposed brick, keeping it cool in the summer and warm in the winter. There are three large storage closets on the lower level, as well as additional storage in the garage. This house all has the benefits of a comfortable and elegant historic home, with modern updates and none of the upkeep of a single family home! Offered at $455,000, contact Julie Starr for a tour of this unique and beautiful downtown property.

 

2 Pomeroy Terrace, from the street view. Unit 7 is on the right hand side of the first floor, beneath the tower.

Living Room with circular seating area and original windows

Pocket doors leading to dining room, hand carved mantel surrounds fireplace to the right, note the beautiful parquet floors.

View from dining room to living room. KW Home window treatments on the window.

Light filled eat in kitchen, renovated in 2005

Another view of the kitchen

And another...

Master bedroom with large closet

2nd bedroom with 2 large storage closets

Custom tiled full bathroom on lower level

Hand carved mantel

Pocket doors and parquet floors

Another view of the fireplace

Low Inventory of Houses for sale in the Pioneer Valley?

The Daily Hampshire Gazette, our local Northampton, MA newspaper, ran an interesting article this week about the dearth of inventory of homes for sale in the Pioneer Valley. The article suggests that homeowners are staying put, vs. downsizing or retiring and moving, as a contributing factor to the low inventory of homes for sale. The article also points out that while there may be low inventory of houses on the market, it's a very good time to buy, as mortgage interest rates remain low. 

A quick check of the MLSPIN (Multiple Listing Service Property Information Network) - the MLS database for Western MA, today shows 69 homes for sale in the $200,000 to $500,000 range in Amherst, Northampton and Easthampton; and 29 listings in the $505,000 to $1,500,000 range in the same 3 communities. On a micro level, what we realtors at Maple and Main tend to see, is that the majority of buyers we work with are looking to buy in the under $500,000 range, but within walking distance to town. The problem is that houses which fit that description are few and far between. While you may find a house that is within the under $500K price range and close to town (whether it be Northampton, Florence or another local community), it will often need some TLC, have a small yard, be on a busy road - or have some other perceived negatives. Once the spring market becomes active, we do tend to see a great deal of foot traffic at our open houses -- as if buyers have been waiting in the wings for inventory to hit the market.

The article also states that it pays to be ready to go, so that you can take immediate action when the house you are looking for becomes available. This means being prequalified with a (local) bank so that you can make a competing offer right away. And to have a buyer agent with whom you are working, so that you can monitor the MLS together, and be ready to see houses as they become available.

65 Fairview Street in Northampton. Sold in 2015 by Maple and Main Realty, LLC

 

For the full article, read on below.

 

Inventory woes hit Valley’s housing market


By DAVE EISENSTADTER

Monday, February 22, 2016


NORTHAMPTON — The buzz words that have always made the Valley’s housing market attractive — stability and steady growth — remain the same in 2016, but experts are sounding an alarm over another phenomenon that is pulling the market down.

There simply aren’t enough homes for sale, said Rick Sawicki, owner/manager of Sawicki Real Estate in Amherst and 2016 president elect of the Real Estate Association of the Pioneer Valley.

“There’s a lack of inventory and that’s across the state,” Sawicki said in his office earlier this month. “That’s why sales haven’t bounced up as much as we’d like them.”

Sawicki believes the market has bounced back to where it was in 2007 and 2008 before the recession that slashed housing prices. But due to pent up demand, the houses that are going on the market are being quickly snatched up, he said.

This is good news for sellers looking to unload their homes quickly, though prices have yet to bounce back to pre-Recession levels. The good news for buyers is that interest rates remain at historic lows, but they’ll have to act fast to snare their dream home.


At the market’s peak in the spring of 2008, for example, there were about 130 houses for sale in the Amherst area. The average over the past several years has been 70 for sale. Now there are 38 houses on the market, he said.

In 2014, 1,062 houses were sold in Hampshire County and that number increased 17 percent in 2015 to 1,242, according to statistics compiled by the Massachusetts Association of Realtors. The median price of homes sold in the county dropped slightly in 2015, to around $257,000 compared to $260,000 from the year before.

Hampshire County is lucky because it has the five colleges, Sawicki said. Unlike in other states where residents can depend on factories that might close or move overseas, the University of Massachusetts and the other institutes of higher learning are stable, he said.

The region has slow years when UMass has hiring freezes, but then will have great years when the university expands, he said.

“The plus side for us is that they are not going anywhere,” he said.

The new reality?

Sawicki said he and other Realtors are just now starting to figure out why there have not been as many homes for sale. People are staying in their homes longer rather than downsizing due to drops in housing prices. People are also working for more years rather than retiring, he said.

Additionally, would-be first-time owners are saddled with college debt, which has become a centerpiece of the presidential campaign on the Democratic side, he said. That means some live with their parents, giving further incentive for their parents to keep their larger home.

Sawicki hopes this isn’t the new reality.

“We don’t see as many first-time home buyers,” he said. In prior years before the recession, Sawicki said about a third of his customers were buying their first home. At the moment, he said he does not have any.


Stability continues

Craig Della Penna of Murphy Realtors said at his Florence office earlier this month that the key to the Valley’s stability in this market is its connection to walkable downtown areas.

“Places like Southern California and Arizona, places where there were huge tracts of cookie cutter locations, took it on the chin the worst,” he said. “That doesn’t fit the description here.”

According to Della Penna, historic neighborhoods featuring grid-pattern streets, sidewalks and porches are the ones that are resilient and popular.

“That is the location of the future,” he said. “That type of a layout held stronger and after the recession that is where people want to be.”

He said living in the communities of the Valley brings out civic engagement in people, and residents find themselves more invested in their neighborhoods.

“That means joining thankless long hours on boards and commissions here in the city as a volunteer, or they will participate in ways they probably didn’t where they used to live,” he said.

Della Penna’s specialty is selling houses near conservation land, particularly near bicycle trails that have been converted from old railroad tracks. He believes that such trails have the power to revitalize neighborhoods.

As for the recession, Della Penna said he knew the region had moved beyond it shortly after the 2012 election. Sixty prospective buyers came to an open house the following month in a Florence location.

“Realtors that were experienced around here, we knew we were out of the recession,” he said.

Della Penna had 25 sales in the past year, he said. At the same time, his business skews toward the higher end houses, meaning that he has not sold to as many first-time buyers. He described the market as a seller’s market, meaning that those selling homes have the upper hand over those buying them.

Interest rates

Though they have to act fast, buyers can still take advantage of historically low interest rates despite a recent rate hike approved by the Federal Reserve.

“We heard so much about the federal rate going up, but in actuality rates have come down,” Barbara-Jean DeLoria, senior vice president and director of mortgage lending at Florence Savings Bank, said in an interview this month. “The fed has lowered the interest rates over the past few weeks, which is really interesting.”

Florence Savings Bank offers a 3.75 percent 30-year mortgage.

“We really are at the bottom,” she said, referring to the rate. “In my 25 years of banking I have seen rates that have been at 12 percent, 7 percent and now as low as 3.5 percent.”

She said she does not expect rates to rapidly increase any time soon. “I don’t think the state of the economy can sustain that,” she said.

DeLoria said the bank determines a potential buyer’s debt-to-income ratio to decide what amount they can afford to borrow. By prequalifying a customer in this way, it gives that customer the knowledge of what they can afford and the power to negotiate, she said.

Mortgages are on the rise in the area. Florence Savings, for example, in 2014 approved 400 mortgages, and in 2015 the number was 523, according to DeLoria.

Countywide, the value of all mortgages rose about 17 percent — from $667 million to $782 million — keeping up with the increase in home sales, according to DeLoria.

Realtor Rachel Simpson of Goggins Real Estate based in Northampton is waiting for the spring.

In the winter of 2014, sales were down because of the cold and snowy weather, and then the market picked up in the spring, as it always does, she said.

Up until some recent snowstorms, the market remained active, but it is slow due to a lack of houses on the market.

“There’s a lot of buyers looking for inventory and there isn’t much inventory,” she said.

The hottest time of the market is the spring, and for that reason many prospective sellers and buyers wait until then to become active in the market.

At the same time, preparing to buy or sell can take time, so Simpson is advising sellers to start cleaning their house and preparing it for showings and buyers to go out and look at some homes.

Simpson said with online listings there is a lot of cursory information available, but that nothing replaces going to see a house in person.

“I encourage people to look and not to be afraid to go look at something even if they are not sure,” she said. “The more you know, the better off you are and the better informed you’re going to be to putting in an offer.”

Dave Eisenstadter can be reached at deisen@gazettenet.com.