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Moving to the country: Franklin County sees uptick in homebuyers from cities

  • A house for sale in Heath, located on 8.4 acres of land near the Crowingingshield Conservation area. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO/FITZGERALD REAL ESTATE

  • Jennifer Gross, a Realtor with Coldwell Banker Community Realtors of South Deerfield, said some buyers she has spoken with had already been considering moving out of city areas, and the pandemic helped push them to do so. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO/JENNIFER GROSS

Staff Writer
Published: 8/9/2020 8:20:26 PM

GREENFIELD — The lasting COVID-19 pandemic and economic uncertainty is prompting people to relocate from larger cities and purchase secondary or primary homes in more rural areas, including here in Franklin County.

Laura Sandvik, a Shelburne resident and Realtor with Delap Real Estate in Northampton, said there is an undeniable increase of interested homebuyers from urban areas, including Boston and New York City.

“People want to be somewhere that’s safer,” Sandvik said. “I have friends in Manhattan who only leave their apartment once a week.”

Corrine Fitzgerald, of Fitzgerald Real Estate in Greenfield, agreed that the “quality of life” in the area is a big draw for homebuyers. She said a lot of people from more populated areas have been re-evaluating their lifestyle and taking the opportunity to explore rural living.

“It is the topic in real estate these days,” Fitzgerald said. “We’re definitely seeing people moving in from more congested areas, more city and highly populated areas.”

Sandvik said she sold a half-acre property in Northampton in Hampshire County to a family from New York, and they were “thrilled” by the space they had.

Dana Nestor and his partner, Kristina, moved to Northampton from Brooklyn in June. They said they had already been planning to move to the area before the COVID-19 pandemic began because Kristina is attending the University of Massachusetts this fall to earn her Ph.D. in epidemiology. Nestor said he works for a philanthropic foundation and is able to work remotely.

So far, Nestor said they were enjoying the change of environment.

“We love the area,” he said. “It’s kind of calm, and there’s a lot of great amenities. We can go outdoors — go for a hike.”

Nestor said they left the city before the reopening process really started. While New York had restrictions in place, he noted there was simply more people to handle. “It’s very similar, and very different all at the same time,” Nestor said.

Here, in the more rural towns of Western Massachusetts, he said there is more space and more places to go. Compared to Brooklyn, Nestor said he feels more comfortable eating outdoors or going to the grocery store.

Pushed by the pandemic

Jennifer Gross, a Realtor with Coldwell Banker Community Realtors of South Deerfield, said some buyers she has spoken with had already been considering moving out of city areas, and the pandemic helped push them to do so. Sandvik said many people moving from cities have dealt with confined quarters of studio apartments, and the rural area provides a literal breath of fresh air.

Sandvik said she closed on a house in Shelburne Falls recently, which was sold to a couple from New York City. She said the husband of the couple who purchased the home is a poet, and the wife is also able to work remotely. Adjusting to remote working models has led many to feel comfortable moving further away from brick-and-mortar office spaces, and extend commutes times because they will make the trek much less often.

“I’m seeing more pressure from Boston for exactly that reason,” Gross said. “They’re all thinking they’re going to be working from home now. People may only have to commute once a week, or once a month.”

Gross said she was also noticing some pressure on the market from New York buyers who can’t afford the Berkshires anymore and are looking at property in the Valley. There are other economic factors at play, too, as Sandvik said interest rates are currently low, and it’s easy for potential buyers to borrow money. She said multiple years’ worth of rent in a city can be fairly comparable to purchasing a home in the area.

“Why rent when you can build equity?” Sandvik asked.

Competitive market

Sandvik said she recently sold a house to an already local resident. She said it is nice when local people are able to get a new house in the area. According to Sandvik, the exodus from cities has led to a competitive housing market. Sandvik and Gross said some clients have put in offers over asking prices, but are still at risk of being beat out by cash buyers from Boston or New York.

“Sometimes, houses are going for $30,000 over the asking price,” Sandvik said.

Fitzgerald said she is getting multiple offers on almost every property. She said the influx of people to the county sees both people looking for a second home or a primary home. Fitzgerald said she has especially noticed an increase of homebuyers interested in houses in a higher-end price range. She also noted that there has been an increased interest in purchasing undeveloped land, and a number of these buyers are from out of the area.

The shortage of available housing in Western Massachusetts also plays into the competitive market. Sandvik said the area has a lot of houses that do not end up on the market, because the older people either do not move, or give their homes to their children.

Fitzgerald, Sandvik and Gross all said improved internet access across most county towns has helped the area become a more viable option for those moving from the city, However, with remote work as a driving factor, Sandvik said she and other Realtors do tend to have more trouble selling homes in county towns with limited internet service.

Zack DeLuca can be reached at zdeluca@recorder.com or 413-930-4579.


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