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Real estate market is hot for buyers, sellers

GREATER WESTFIELD-For buyers and sellers in the current real estate market, the news is overwhelmingly positive, according to local realtors and officials with the Massachusetts Association of Realtors.

“Historically, we see housing activity in Massachusetts begin to slow a bit as we head into early fall, though this year all signs point to a very busy fall housing market,” said Kurt Thompson, president, 2020 Massachusetts Association of Realtors (MAR) and broker at Keller Williams Realty North Central in Leominster. “We expect to continue to see healthy housing demand over the next several months, even with a possible seasonal resurgence of COVID-19 and the upcoming elections.”

Thompson said data from August showed home sales “remain strong” while inventory “remains limited.”

New listings in August included 6,531 single-family homes and 2,685 condominiums, a slight decrease in homes listed in July. Inventory decreased 56.1% for single-family units and 22.5% for condominium units when compared to August 2019.

“For single-family homes, inventory was at the lowest it’s ever been since MAR began reporting the data in 2004 and median price was at an all-time high for the third month in a row,” he added.

Historically low interest rates are “significantly motivating buyer demand,” said Thompson.

“Buyers are scrambling to lock in the lowest interest rates they are likely to see in their lifetime, and hedge against inflation by ensuring a predictable housing cost for the next 30 years,” said Thompson.

Robin Sheldon of Sheldon Real Estate at 59 West Silver St., Westfield, shared a similar sentiment. The firm has three sales associates.

“I’ve been in real estate for 35 years and with sales very strong and low rates, it’s crazy right now,” said Sheldon of the Westfield market as well as surrounding towns. “I am seeing listings that are gone as fast as they come on the market.”

While some real estate professionals initially thought that the COVID-19 pandemic would dampen sales, the opposite has happened, noted Sheldon.

“There is a hesitancy of home sellers to put their house on the market because they don’t want a lot of traffic which has created a smaller inventory for the real estate market,” said Sheldon. “With homes under the current Multiple Listing Services, I have seen in one to two days that sellers have more than enough people who have come through the property and are making offers. A frenzy has been created with inventory shrinking and low rates.”

Barry Boccasile, director of growth and development for Park Square Realty, with offices at 44 Elm St., Westfield, and 470 Westfield St., Suite 2, West Springfield, echoed that sentiment. The company has 53 sales associates between the two offices.

“Westfield and Southwick are two of our strongest market share areas,” said Boccasile. “The inventory levels in both of these areas is limited and the buyer demand is extremely high.”

Boccasile noted that when they place a home on the market, “priced at market value,” it is “very common” to have multiple offers and accepted offers well above the listing price.

“Needless to say, in these multi-offer scenarios there are always many disappointed buyers,” said Boccasile. “There is definitely a much higher number of qualified buyers than the lower number of quality listings on the market.”

Boccasile said his message to sellers is simple – “This is a super strong seller market. It’s the best sellers’ market I’ve ever seen in my 33+ year real estate career. It’s a fantastic time to sell if you’re looking to capitalize on your equity.”

For persons interested in buying real estate at this time, Boccasile noted that buyers should work with a “quality realtor” and be “very patient” with their search.

“Buyers should get their expectations right and try to not fall completely in love with the home they like until their offer is accepted,” said Boccasile. “If you’re really interested in a home listen to your agent’s advice and strategy and come in with a very strong offer.”

Kathy Witalisz, broker/owner at Witalisz & Associates, Inc. concurred. Her firm is located at 2 Broad St., Westfield, and has seven realtors, including her daughter and second generation realtor, Heather Witalisz.

“When we compare the average sale price for single-family homes from Jan. 1 to the middle of September 2020 to the same timeframe last year, we saw an increase of about 13% from $255,366 to $288,623,” said Kathy Witalisz, noting the source was Multiple Listing Services. “Factors attributing to this increase are scarce inventory or limited supply, historic low interest rates (under 4%), and strong buyer demand, all evidence of a sellers’ market.”

Witalisz, who has been in the real estate business since 1974, thought she had seen it all.

“Over the course of my career, I have witnessed double-digit interest rates, the collapse of the housing market, and now a global pandemic,” she said. “Although this industry is saddled with many changes, the fundamental principles of trust, knowledge, and the ability to get the job done never go out of style.”

For the latest on real estate trends in the area, visit Realtor Association of Pioneer Valley’s website – Each month the professional trade organization breaks down the local market with data that includes median sales price, inventory of available property, new listings, and pending and closing sales for single-family properties and condominiums.

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