First-time home sales tick up in Western Mass

WESTFIELD – While many homeowners are staying put right now, it’s a good time to be a first-time home buyer in Western Massachusetts.
The Massachusetts Association of Realtors said a roughly 3 percent increase in sales last month was driven by an improving job market, affordable prices and low-interest rates.
Local Realtor Lesley Weber Lambert of Park Square Realty said the low-mid price range homes are selling at good prices for both buyers and sellers.
“The overall climate we’re seeing is that entry and lower to mid range homes have the most increase in sales,” said Lambert. “First-time buyers are really taking advantage of low-interest rates. And, investors are back.”
Lambert said this area does not have a huge inventory of distressed homes.  However, investors are buying homes in need of some TLC and that’s helping to hike up values throughout the area. But not all is rosy in real estate, especially for residents who purchased luxury homes in the buying heyday earlier in the decade.
“The hardest hit and slowest moving market is the high-end home,” said Lambert.
She said many people who spent a lot on a home that they can no longer afford are finding what they owe is more than what their home is worth. For those sellers, a short sale is an option.
“If the home is worth less than what they owe and they have a hardship and must sell, short sales are a good option,” said Lambert. “Short sales are subject to third-party approval and that third-party is the lender.”
According to the National Association of Realtors, people are staying in their homes longer today.
“Traditionally, families stayed in their houses five to seven years,” said Lambert. “That has been extended to seven to 10 years.”
Lambert said Western Massachusetts did not bottom out the way many communities across the country did when it comes to home values.
“Luckily, Western Massachusetts was far less impacted by the recession and housing crash than other areas, like California, where home values dropped 50 and 60 percent,” said Lambert. “People here tend to be more conservative in their buying practices.”
Lambert has been a real estate agent for 23 years. She received her license at age 18 and said the business has changed tremendously over the past two decades.
“I started in this business when the only way to know if a home was for sale was to look for a For Sale sign or look it up in the MLS
book, which came out every two weeks,” she said.
Lambert said today, clients want to be in touch frequently and quickly and in whatever means they choose, including texts, Twitter and email. Lambert has become a social media expert, using it to market herself and provide almost instant customer service to her clients.
“Everyone wants information quickly, as do I,” she said.
Lambert said next to technology, the biggest difference in real estate she has seen is in the clients themselves.
“Buyers are far more educated, thanks to the Internet, which is great,” said Lambert. “I’m still there to guide them, but they are further along in the process when they come to me.”
Lambert predicts the coming year will be much like this one, as far as home sales is concerned.
“In my experience, things are starting to stabilize and price dropping has stopped,” she said. “It seems that the worst has passed.”
Lambert said she hopes the economic indicators and experts who say we will be out of the current crisis by 2013 are right. Either way, she said there are always people who need to move for various reasons, and she is here to help.
“Whether you’re making a move to sell or buy, it’s time to get a strategy to get the best results, whatever your needs may be,” said Lambert.

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