Westfield housing market on upswing

WESTFIELD – Recently released statistics have shown positive growth in the sale of single family homes in the Westfield area.
According to information released late last month, 293 single-family homes were sold in the city in 2012, marking a 24 percent increase over 2011. While the majority of these homes were in the $150,00 to $250,000 range, the average price was $205,120, almost a nine percent decline from 2011.
Despite the increase in sales and decline in prices, the average amount of time a house spent on the market in 2012 was 135 days, which was 17 days longer than  in 2011.
Heather Witalisz, a broker at local real estate firm Witalisz & Associates, says that while some of these figures are encouraging, the amount of time these houses have spent on the market is something to be taken with a grain of salt.
“It is what it is,” Witalisz said Friday. “It’s discouraging, but it’s the nature of the market right now.”
One problem facing realtors like Witalisz is Westfield’s current lack of inventory priced in the $350,000 to $399,999 range.
“Last year (2012), we sold only 10 homes in that range, which was only half of what we sold in 2011,” she said. “We just don’t have the inventory available to convince someone who is currently living in a $250,000 to $300,000 house to sell their home and move up to something bigger.”
Even despite the lack of marquee properties, Witalisz retains that it still is a buyer’s market and that it is much healthier than it has been of late.
“It’s still not 2006, but it is much better than it was even two years ago,” Witalisz said. “Buyers need to take advantage of the current interest rates, which are still very low, and sellers need to be patient and realistic.”
Some are even more enthusiastic about the state of the market, such as Ted Cassell, the owner of Park Square Realty in Westfield and Feeding Hills, who is a firm believer in the positive direction of the market.
“It’s on the way up,” he said, “and it’s the first-time buyers who are keeping (the market) moving. There’s been movement across the spectrum, and that can be attributed to the positive things people have been reading about real estate lately, which has given them lots of confidence.”
In regards to the lack of inventory in the $300,000-plus market, Cassell believes that segment is slowly coming back, in addition to a renewed interest in real estate investing.
“Westfield has always had a strong rental market due to the school’s presence,” he said, in reference to Westfield State University. “And people are viewing real estate as a solid investment again.”
Park Square’s early returns have been promising for January and Cassell believes this is a strong indication heading into the spring that 2013 will be a good year for the housing market in the city.
“People saw that last year was good, ” he said.  “And they know they can lock into a low fixed-rate and get a great deal. We’re very optimistic that the market has turned. Now is the time to buy.”
Another local real estate broker who is no stranger to the Whip City housing market is Lisa Oleksak-Sullivan, a realtor for Coldwell-Banker in Westfield. She believes that 2013 will be much busier than 2012.
“I think western Mass. is making a big comeback,” she said confidently.  “It’s going to be a very strong market this year.”
When asked what is keeping Westfield’s market stable and primed for its big comeback, she explained it as a matter of young and old, first time buyers and senior citizens downsizing.
“It’s really coming full circle.” Sullivan said.

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