Last modified: Thursday, February 27, 2014
Since 2008, the Hampshire County real estate market largely avoided the most serious problems associated with the financial crisis, including therampant foreclosures that struck in Hampden County,

But there was trouble.

“The downturn we all saw the economy take was longer ... than any of us had seen in more than 40 years,” Goggins said.

Area real estate agents say the market has not yet returned to pre-2008 levels, but it is getting better.

“Things are certainly improving,” Goggins said.

The Village Hill housing in Northampton that has been on the marketplace has performed steadily, Goggins said, with townhouses selling for $279,000 and some homes in the $300,000 range.

This has prompted additional projects to be proposed, such as the 28-unit Upper Ridge townhouses. The Clarke School campus conversion into residential dwellings also continues.

David Murphy at The Murphys Realtors in Northampton said there remains reluctance in the economy and lack of business confidence, in part because unemployment remains high.

“I think we’ll see it slowly get better,” Murphy said. “It got a lot healthier in ‘13, and I think it will get better again this year.”

In Northampton in 2012, 182 sales were made with a $308,000 average sale price. This increased to 214 sales last year and an average sale price of $329,000. Homes were also on the market for fewer days, Murphy said.

Rick Sawicki at Sawicki Real Estate in Amherst said it is a long, slow crawl back to normal.

“We’re working our way up, but we’re not getting there quick,” Sawicki said.

Statistics from the Realtor Association of Pioneer Valley show that sales in Hampshire County were up 27.3 percent between December 2012 and December 2013, from 66 to 84, and the median sales price rose 7 percent, from $232,000 in December 2012 to $248,500 in December 2013. Overall, from 2012 to 2013, sales in Hampshire County increased 7 percent, from 1,032 to 1,104, and the median sales price rose 4.2 percent, from $239,900 to $250,000.

Most months last year saw year-to-year improvements in both categories, trends that realtors appreciate.

“What the data indicates, and what we’re seeing, is we’re coming off the bottom and moving forward,” Sawicki said.

But Sawicki said there remains an “incredible lack of inventory” for people seeking residential properties. In Amherst, there are 45 homes on market with an average list price of $370,000, which means that it is not easy for young families to buy housing in town.

Throughout the area, market-rate housing is not being built. Northampton has 83 units of assisted living proposed at Christopher Heights at Village Hill, but aside from the student housing in Amherst, the only notable project is the 42-unit Olympia Oaks on Olympia Drive, being built by HAP Inc. after years of planning.

Murphy, for one, said a stable housing market is better than the one that existed previously around 2005, in which people expected to make money off investing in real estate.

“I’m not anxious to see it get back to that fevered pitch,” Murphy said.