Blog :: 02-2016

Welcome to our blog! Here you will find posts about can't miss properties, local events, and more! Here at Maple and Main Realty we pride ourselves on our knowledge of the Northampton area. Feel free to leave a comment, we would love to hear from you! If you have any questions, don't hesitate to contact us

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.

 

Mudroom Gratitude in Western Massachusetts

This time of year I feel grateful for my mudroom. I'm grateful for the cubbies we had built, so that each of our family members has somewhere to store their winter layers, their boots, their backpacks, etc. I'm grateful for the rubber floors which we chose, which are colorful and easy to clean. I'm grateful for the coat closet in the mudroom, where we can hide away our warmer weather outerwear. I'm grateful to the resource of Pinterest, where I found great mudroom design ideas. And, perhaps, I am mostly grateful for the door between the mudroom and the rest of our living space - so that we might keep that clutter from spilling over into our living room.

As a realtor in the Northampton area, I am reminded this time of year, to point out to my buyer clients the benefits of purchasing a home which has an entryway or mudroom. A home with an entryway -- even if it is just a small transitional area (as an alternative to a full mudroom) -- allows the homeowner a place to leave off the baggage that winter necessitates. It is so nice to be free from the bulky clothes, the mud, snow, dirt, etc before entering one's home. 

Looks as if the Daily Hampshire Gazette shares my opinion. Here is a recent article about the benefits of the mudroom from our local newspaper.

 

A mudroom is more than a place to store stuff



JERREY ROBERTS The mud room at the home of Suna Turgay and Ben Woods in Florence.

By ERIC GOLDSCHEIDER
For the Gazette
Thursday, February 11, 2016

A great mudroom has its own heat source, gets natural light, is easy to clean and is well organized. With those four fundamentals it’s hard to go wrong and easy to find ways to let creativity flourish.

Mike Buehler and Anne Vaillant of Southampton did theirs as part of a more extensive renovation in 2014. The mudroom is not only a highly functional space but it also is the way visitors are greeted and introduced to their household. It bespeaks order and charm in its functionality.

“The single best thing that we did was to put in a very large storage area, including closed cabinetry, a bench with space underneath for shoes, and then lots of hooks for hanging jackets and backpacks,” said Buehler, a self-described “neat freak” in a “family that doesn’t always share that priority.”

A mudroom performs several tangible and psychological functions. It serves as a barrier between the hearth and the rest of the world. It’s a place where you transition from your outside self to your inside self. You get to leave the dirt on your shoes behind and unburden yourself of some of the paraphernalia, like keys, backpacks, umbrellas, coats and hats that aren’t necessarily of much use in the house. You can even leave your cellphone behind in a charging station of you want to be beyond its reach when you get home. It will be revved up and ready to go in the morning.

A mudroom can also be a place where pet supplies, like a brush, feeding and water bowls, and food can be kept, especially for animals that spend time both indoors and out.


Suna Turgay compares the feeling of having a mudroom to watching Mr. Rogers on television. “He comes in and takes off his coat and then puts on his sweater, takes his shoes off and puts his slippers on,” she said. Having a mudroom “definitely mimics that.” She keeps some guest slippers for visitors.

Turgay, who lives in a 2,000-square-foot house in Florence with her husband, Ben Wood, and their two children, a 13-year-old daughter and an 8-year-old son, said their mudroom is “almost like an airlock. You come in, whether it’s raining, or really hot, or snowing, or muddy, you close the door behind you and you dump all your stuff.” She values the organization it lends to her life. It also makes it a lot easier to keep the rest of the house clean. Another big advantage, because there is the outside door and the inside door, is “that all that precious heat in the home isn’t escaping” every time you go outside. The savings in heat, in fact, makes the initial investment that much more worthwhile, she said.

She has a small heater in the mudroom, which is on a zone unto itself. It doubles as a drying station for wet mittens. Heating is crucial if you really want your mudroom to be fully functional in all four seasons. Without it, said Turgay, it becomes a place to store things. You would end up bringing your shoes into the house to dry out and to be reasonably warm when you go to put them on.

Hers has a heating panel mounted on a wall. It is connected to the house’s central heating system but has a knob that goes from one to six. “We keep it around one,” said Turgay. It’s like “an old-fashioned radiator,” only smaller, sleeker and more modern looking.

Easy clean

Turgay’s mudroom has organizing features built in from ceiling to floor. It is long and thin and has hooks, shelves and baskets. “We also have little cubbies, though the little people have gotten much bigger and they are probably not that necessary anymore,” she said. “Now there are places to hang backpacks and bags and things like that.”

In the summer the mudroom is a way station between house and garden. “I am a grower of food, which makes the mudroom that much more important,” she said. Besides growing most of what the family eats on a fenced-in third of an acre, she also keeps chickens and bees. The grit that collects on her shoes and outer clothes gets trapped in the mudroom.

Tile or stone is the ideal flooring surface for a mudroom because it is easily cleaned. Dirt tends to collect quickly in a mudroom and that’s a good thing, because that is all dirt that is not making it into the house. An easily swept and occasionally mopped floor makes it relatively simple to expel that dirt at a rate that keeps up with the traffic.

That is something that Buehler seconds. As part of a family with girls aged 15 and 11, skis and snowboards are often left to let the drippings of melting ice and snow puddle up in the mudroom. “And my younger daughter has a horse, so she leaves her barn clothes and riding boots there,” he adds. “It’s a good solution for an active family.”

Their mudroom is where there used to be a direct opening into the kitchen. “It’s nice not having a blast of arctic air coming into the kitchen every time you open the door in the winter,” he said. “It’s fantastic.”


The cabinetry and shelves are cherry. “We like the warmth of it and we liked the idea of a wood that ages and evolves over time,” said Buehler. “Cherry darkens nicely and gets these rosy tones if you’re lucky.”

The mudroom reflects the style of his kitchen, which he had renovated at the same time. “We were looking for a warm country look, not a sleek, granite stainless kind of job.”

Size counts

Dan Bradbury, who manages projects for Valley Home Improvement Inc. in Northampton, said his firm does about four to six mudrooms a year, some as part of a larger renovation and some as stand-alone projects. They can range anywhere between $8,000 and $40,000 depending on the size and materials one chooses. “The main driving force of cost is the footprint,” Bradbury said. “That becomes an exponential number that includes framing, drywall, electrical installations and finishing. Size really counts.”

Then comes the quality of the wood and other materials one chooses. “Even the tiles have a huge range in price,” Bradbury said. The company has its own cabinetry shop and the workers are skilled in helping customers design the storage scheme. “The most important thing is that it is well organized,” he said.

A heat source is crucial for it to be a four-season room but the cost of heating need not be exorbitant, according to Bradbury. There are a number of options, including radiant heat from the floor.

Another consideration is light, especially if you are adding a mudroom to an existing part of the house. “You don’t want to steal light from your kitchen or living room,” he said. “That’s very important, especially in the dark months around here in the wintertime.”

That means taking angles of the sun into account when situating the room. It might also mean adding a window to a wall in the room giving onto the mudroom.

Monet Singh of Florence, who describes her household as “a very active family” with three children, is in the planning stages of a mudroom she hopes to build in the spring.

“My kids are all over the place and their stuff is all over the place and this is the first time we are doing work on our house to make it a more livable and comfortable space,” she said. “We just had the kitchen done, so the next big thing that needs to be done is the mudroom so we can feel a little more comfortable and organized and have place to put all our stuff.”

Eric Goldscheider can be reached at eric.goldscheider@gmail.com

 

The Pioneer Valley has some of the hottest real estate markets in the Bay State!

Great news for homeowners in the Pioneer Valley! According to this article on the Boston.com website, home sales in the Bay State in 2015 indicate that of the 25 "hottest" cities, we are cornering the market! East Longmeadow, Westfield, Holyoke and Easthampton all make this list! This means that house sales have increased significantly in each of these four local communities, all within striking distance of Northampton, since 2014.

We Maple and Main realtors have certainly noticed this trend first-hand. Easthampton alone showed vigorous home sale activity during our busy Spring/Summer market of 2015. We look forward to a continuation of this trend in Hampshire, Hampden and Franklin counties in 2016 and beyond! 

 

These are the 25 ‘hottest’ cities and towns in Massachusetts:

Photo credit: Matthew Cavanaugh for The Boston Globe - Holyoke, MA



By Megan Turchi @meganturchi

February 5, 2016 

It was a big year for home sales in the Bay State.
The recent 2015 Massachusetts Housing Report from Waltham-based Lamacchia Realty points out that 83,961 homes sold in the state last year, a 9 percent increase from 2014. The average sale price of these homes also went up 3.6 percent.
Lamacchia Realty attributes this increase in sales to factors such as loosening mortage guidelines, low interest rates, increased home equity, and an overall stronger local economy.
But of the 351 cities and towns in Massachusetts, some saw the number of home sales increase more than others.
As Anthony Lamacchia of Lamacchia Realty notes in his most recent report about the hottest housing markets of 2015, when a town or city sees a big jump in home sales from one year to another, it’s a strong indicator that it is “becoming a sought-after location for homeowners”—in other words, a “hot” market.
This could also be an indicator for what we can expect to see in these cities and towns throughout 2016.
Here is Lamacchia Realty’s list of the 25 hottest towns and cities in Massachusetts real estate for 2015: