PITTSFIELD -- Berkshire County's residential real estate market posted gains in sales and prices in 2012 not seen since its high in 2005, according to data compiled by the Berkshire County Board of Realtors.
Last year saw sales of single-family homes rise by 25 percent with significant increases reported in all three sections of the county. In addition, the number of single-family home sales was 1,095 in 2012, an increase of 23.7 percent from the 885 registered the previous year. Last year's sales figures equated to $314 million, a significant jump from the $262 million sold in 2011.
The biggest jump occurred in Northern Berkshire where sales increased by 36 percent, according to the Board of Realtors' data. Sales in Southern Berkshire rose 24 percent from 2011 and improved by 23 percent in Central Berkshire.
Overall, residential sales in Northern Berkshire and Central Berkshire were at their highest levels since 2007, while sales in Southern Berkshire were the highest since 2006.
The Berkshire County real estate market has struggled in recent years. After peaking in 2005, the county market gradually decreased until it hit bottom in 2009 when sales reached their lowest point in 10 years. The positive gains in 2012 point to a strong upward shift in consumer confidence as those consumers took advantage of good values and record low interest rates.
The Berkshire County real estate market started to build during the first half of 2012, then became stronger during the second half of the year, according to Randy Thunfors, a broker at Stone House Properties in West Stockbridge. Sales of single-family homes in the Berkshires in July 2012 increased 20.8 percent from the same time period in 2011, according to the Board of Realtors' data.
"There were tremendously good values," Thunfors said. "As the market came back, people wanted to be in the Berkshires, and they were feeling confident."
The county's market mirrors the trend throughout Massachusetts where the sales of single-family homes rose 18 percent to 46,887 in 2012, the best year on record since 2006, according to the Warren Group of Boston, which tracks real estate transactions.
The Warren Group, which uses a different formula than the Berkshire County Board of Realtors to track sales, also showed positive sales of single-family homes in Berkshire County: An increase of 15.4 percent in 2012. The Warren Group tracks every recorded deed change, while the Berkshire County Board of Realtors only includes homes that are Realtor-assisted.
Sandra Carroll, the CEO of the Berkshire County Board of Realtors, cited several factors for the big increase in home sales in 2012.
"Part of it is that the economy just leveled out from the year before," she said. "There was so much apprehension the previous year that the economy just stalled. It was also a combination of having really low interest rates, and that sales had gone down [the year before]."
Prospective home-buyers had also been watching the market before deciding to buy.
Buyers were either going for deals, while others were reaching into the upper market in 2012. Significant increases were reported in the number of homes that sold below $300,000 and above $1 million, according to the Board of Realtors. But the number of homes in the $400,000 to $500,000 price range lagged slightly last year.
The higher end represents the second-home market, while the lower end consists mostly of Berkshire County residents, Carroll said.
The largest number of residential real estate sales occurred in Pittsfield in 2012, but the biggest improvement occurred in Richmond, where 16 single-family homes were sold in 2012 compared to four the year before. The total number of sales jumped from $1.4 million in 2011 to $9.7 million in 2012.
Stone House Properties sold three homes for more than $1 million in Richmond last year.
Sales of condominiums rose by 36.1 percent in the Berkshires in 2012, after dropping 14.1 percent in 2011. The sale of commercial property rose by 75 percent as 42 units were sold in 2012 compared to 24 the year before, according to the Board of Realtors. Commercial sales had remained flat between 2009 and 2010.
Housing sales ...
Single-home sales by area:
Source: Berkshire County Board of Realtors