Boosted by higher home sale prices and more transactions spurred by low interest rates the amount of money spent on real estate in Hampden County last year was almost $1 billion, a nine percent increase over 2011, and the most since 2008. Hampden County Register of Deeds Donald Ashe called it a good year for the housing market in western Massachusetts and he forecast what he called a “ steady healthy market” for the next six months.
Ashe said high unemployment is still a drag on the housing market and the real estate recovery in the northeast has been slower than nationally.
The real estate statistics for Hampden County are in line with a report earlier this week from the Massachusetts Association of Realtors, which said the housing market is making steady improvement. December sales were up for the 20th straight month.
Another encouraging sign is fewer foreclosures. Foreclosures fell 14 percent in Hampden County in 2012 from the year before. There were 730 foreclosures recorded last year, which Ashe said was the fewest in the state. It’s a reversal from recent years when Hampden County, particularly the city of Springfield, had the highest foreclosure rates in the state. Ashe said the banks have cleared a backlog of delinquent mortgages.
Springfield received millions of dollars from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Neighborhood Stabilization program. The city used the program to buy up abandoned houses, rehab the properties, or raze the buildings and make the vacant lots available for new construction. Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno called foreclosures a “ cancer” on some inner city neighborhoods.
The city has worked with agencies including HAP Housing, Habitat for Humanity, and Neighborhood Housing Services.