Berkshire Home Value- Guarding it

berksghire home valueThe value of your Berkshire home is precious to you.  We searched the web for you to find ways to enhance that value and protect it.  When you are ready to buy a Berkshire home or sell your Berkshire property we are here for YOU.

Find out online the most popular features that Berkshire home buyers are seeking today with this link.  The cost of these features may be less than you think.

Is having a guard dog a good thing?  Find out from Cesar Milan with this  link.  When choosing a guard dog you need to consider insurance costs that may rise on certain breeds.

Do you have good Berkshire home insurance coverage?  Check out this link to find out.

How can you protect your Berkshire home basement from the spring melt waters?  Check out this link to begin.

Spring cleaning your Berkshire home to ready for the summer?  Quick tips are here at this link.

Ever considered what home inspectors do?  Now you know with this link.

These are few starters that will increase your home’s value.  To obtain a Berkshire Real Estate Market Value report on follow this link.






Berkshire Real Estate Agent -How much to real estate agents make?

Berkshire Real Estate Agent Salaries

How much gross income does a Berkshire Real Estate agent make.  It varies everywhere.   However Point2 which provides internet marketing to Berkshire Real Estate Agents has done the math for us using the median salary found on   A Berkshire real estate agent would need to sell 8.45 homes at a price of $300,000 per home each year to make a $38,067 salary.  That amount is not full profit.  As can be seen from the illustration below the real estate agent and broker will have expenses that must be paid from the gross salary.  Considering a career in real estate?  Talk to Harsch Associates.  We can offer you advantages and help your reach your career goal such as state of the art internet advertising of your properties, support staff to assist you in meeting your goals, office space and much more.  Call your Berkshire Real Estate Agency Harsch Associates today.


How Much Do Agents Make How Much Do Real Estate Agents Make?


Berkshire County-Where will you live?

Where will you live ?  Clean air, clean water, safe communities.

We have added a white paper produced by the National Association of Realtors® to our Berkshire Real Estate website that can be viewed by clicking the house icon to the right in this article.

berkshire county real estate values

Berkshire County Environment, Fracking and Real Estate Values

This paper covers the topic of hydrofracking in great detail. There’s a map of the nation at the beginning of the study which shows, to the relief of many, that Massachusetts, Connecticut and Vermont and neighboring portions of NY lie outside any known shale oil or shale gas formations and thus outside the interests of energy companies to perform extraction in our northeastern states and most significantly in our close-by Berkshires and adjacent areas.

So, is this a topic then we should be concerned with as owners or potential owners of real estate?  Indeed it is and there are both positive and in some minds negative factors to consider.

On the positive side is the prospect that our air and water will remain un-affected by fracking operations, our highways not busy with related construction machinery and our sound waves not burdened by the sounds of drilling rigs or heavy machinery running day and night as some communities have had to deal with. (There are transmission lines including one major gas pipeline cutting roughly through the center of the county.)

The negative to some would be the lack of economic benefits such as increased housing demand and construction, increased trade in stores and businesses of all kinds around the areas of activity and of course the income some landowners have earned from leases on their property.

Included in the study are two maps, one showing current active extraction areas around the nation and another the extent of the known oil and gas fields lying beneath the land. If I were someone considering relocating I would take those maps in hand and very carefully consider whether I would want to live anywhere in those vicinities based on the impacts that are known and potential. Imagine purchasing a lovely rural parcel of land and one day waking to the sounds of a drilling rig and long term the sight of well rigs pumping away. Or worse, finding your kitchen faucet running one day with discolored and very smelly water.

So, while the Berkshires, known in some circles as America’s cultural resort region most likely will never see drilling rigs, this is to be seen as a great relief and another reason to either settle here or never leave.

We so far as I know, have never experienced sink holes as in Florida, never had wells contaminated by fracking, never experienced any earthquakes of any magnitude to even rattle the dishes, never had to suffer through crippling droughts or wildfires or mudslides, never had to experience the devastation of tornadoes (a few very minor ones have been known to touch down in south Berkshire County causing minor damage), never suffered the terrible widespread devastation of hurricanes, never has a snowstorm brought the area to a standstill, never have we in fact to my knowledge and recollection had to endure and pay the price for any natural or man-made disasters that have devastated so many other areas, residents and businesses.

The Berkshires and neighboring CT, NY, VT are truly blessed in so many wonderful ways. Unlike many other parts of the nation we have no traffic snarls, no endless commutes, no dirty factory air, no contaminated wells and aside from a few of the ills imported from the big cities like some drug issues (managed very well by local law enforcement), we can live in remarkable peace and enjoyment surrounded by natural beauty.

This truly is a blessed area and we welcome any newcomers looking to enjoy what we residents have been so fortunate to enjoy.

Paul Harsch

Copyright 2014

Berkshire County Spring equals adventures New England Style

berkshire county property for sale

Berkshire County New England living.

Spring in the Berkshires!   Take a moment to experience Berkshire County living through these articles and photos from Western Massachusetts.  We invite inquiries about Berkshire County and the properties for sale in the Berkshires.  We are a locally owned real estate agency in business for more than 40 years.  Our agents offer excellent service with attention to your needs.  Call us today if you are considering moving to the Berkshires.

Berkshire County Spring is in the air and the living is good!

New York Times article about filming “The Judge” in Berkshire County, Western MA.

Mystery New England Village!BambW

Bridge of Flowers

The Clark Art Museum where Monet lives.

Broadway Berkshire Style.

Earth Day in the Berkshires- Celebrate all of April 2014





Do you want to list your Berkshire County property or SELL it?

berkshire county property for sale

What do you see?
What does a buyer see?

Do You Want to List Your Berkshire County property or SELL it?

If seller places their Berkshire County property for sale on the market they absolutely want to sell.



Hiring a Berkshire County Realtor®, putting out the “for sale” sign, placing a “multiple listing service” entry, requesting that the real estate agent do serious advertising and expecting the agent to schedule open houses all are part of placing a home on the market.



All of the above activities indicate the Berkshire property owner wants to sell the property.  Now comes the Catch 22.  The Berkshires seller “must” have a certain price for their property.  The reasons for selling a property are as diverse as the number of fish in the sea.  A few of the more common reasons properties come to the market are downsizing, rightsizing, upgrading, moving to a new location, job transfer, inheriting an estate property, death of a spouse, birth of children, new job, retirement and moving a parent to assisted living.

A leading national real estate site also has a “make me move” section of properties where the owner can place any value on the property and wait to see if a buyer will pay that price.  Needless to say this section of properties remains the same year in and year out as the owner waits to win the lottery of real estate.

Motivation to sell a property can range from the “lottery” example above to the urgent need to decrease the cost of living related to loss of a job.   The most important factor that isn’t represented in any of the information above is the Berkshires property buyer.

A buyer is interested in paying a fair price in a market where the choices are many.  Buyers also are looking for value.  Value is objective and subjective at the same time.  A good comparative market analysis can give the seller the objective value of a property.  A Realtor® is not needed to obtain the subjective value of a property.  A friend or family member can give the seller the subjective value of the property (of course the friend or family member will not be buying the property).

Bankers who provide loans to buyers do so based solely on objective value.  Approximately 90% of home buyers will obtain a mortgage and the property they make an offer on will be subject to appraisal by a licensed state appraisal service.  So a buyer may feel that the property is worth the price they offer (subjective) while the bank declines the loan based on appraised value (objective).

Berkshire county properties can become “holding listings” when this happens.  The buyer ends up holding the property because the reality of appraised value does not match the need for obtaining the subjective value the seller desires.  No amount of subjective need for a “price” will overcome the objective market value of a property.

When the seller’s  genuine goal is to sell the property  the key is knowing what the objective value is.   Your Realtor® should always provide you with a printed Competitive Market Analysis showing all homes listed, sold, cancelled or expired unsold in your local area.   Pay particular attention to the “sold” homes to find a range that will sell your property in a reasonable amount of time.

If your desire is list your property and you do not care if you sell the property you owe it to your Realtor® to share this fact.  Your Realtor® will spend their own time, their money and effort on the marketing your property.  Enter into the relationship with your Realtor®  trusting that if you price your home based on a subjective value the Realtor® even with a valiant effort cannot overcome the objective market value and your property will not sell.

Ask yourself “do I want to list this property or do I want to SELL it?”

Paul Harsch

Copyright 2014

Berkshire Home. To list or SELL. That is the question.

A “for sale” sign on a Berkshire property does not always mean the owner wants to SELL the home.  Owner motivation has everything to do with whether or not a property is positioned in the market to sell actually SELL. The owner may want to receive a price for the home unrelated to the actual market value of the home.

Williamstown real estate

To list or SELL, that is the question.

Berkshire home sellers come to the market with a host of different expectations and conditions.  It may come as a surprise to readers that real estate licensees are no different.   A sign on the lawn, a real estate agent and a listing in the local multiple listing service does not guarantee a sale.  Many variables will affect the motivation of the Berkshire home seller and real estate agent.   As in all markets the value of the item being sold is only what a willing buyer can and will pay for it.  Fair market value to a buyer can be much different than what a seller has in  mind.

For example, if you own 100 shares of Apple stock that is selling for $500 per share you have a portfolio valued at $50,000.  You decide you must  liquidate your shares because of an urgent family need.   You need $60,000.  You ask your broker to sell the shares at $600 per share and you place a limit of $600 per share on the sale.  The stock is trading at $500 per share.  You must have a price of  $100 more than the market is willing to pay.  You must either lower your sell price to market value or hold the stock until it rises to $600 (if the stock ever rises to that value).    You may still have the urgent need for $60,000 but the stock is still worth only $50,000 in the market at this time.



The same example applies to your Berkshire home.  Buyers, appraisers and banks may disagree with you about the worth of your home although you may need to receive a set amount for the sale of your home.  The home can be placed on the market at what is called a “holding price” because at an unrealistic price you will end up holding the property.  You can place a for sale sign in the yard, place ads in the newspaper and online, and even buy a bill board to advertise your home for sale, however none of these things will overcome a over priced listing amount in the market.

If you want to SELL your property and not “hold it”, the key is learning what the real market value is at this point in time.  As in the Apple stock example above you cannot force the market up to the dollar amount you want and believe your home is worth.  You can either hold the stock (home) and wait to see if the market recovers to the level where your SELL price is reached or you can price your stock (home) at the market value and expect a buyer to make a bid.

Berkshire Home-Inspect to Protect


Inspect to Protect

In Berkshire County Real Estate it is routine to have various inspections performed when purchasing a home. In Massachusetts one inspection is mandatory and that is the Title Five Septic Inspection.   For buyers seeking a bank mortgage other inspections may be required. The types of  Berkshire real estate inspections vary with the type of real estate such as land, home, commercial property.

In this blog we are going to focus primarily on the inspections for a Berkshire single family residential transaction and just touch on a few other types of home inspections.  Your Harsch Real Estate Agent will help you locate inspectors that meet your needs.

1)      Berkshire home structural or whole house inspection– these are performed by a state licensed home inspector who will check all visible aspects of the structure, the systems (electrical, plumbing, heating, ventilation), both inside and outside, the foundation, drainage, insulation, in short, everything to do with the house other than cosmetic. Some inspectors will also inspect the appliances, water softeners, filters, AC and other components.

2)      Berkshire home water inspection – if the Berkshire property is served by a private source such as a well then it is advised a water test be taken to check for bacteria, contaminants and even the pH of the water.

3)      Berkshire Home radon – this is available by the home inspector or by purchasing a simple kit to do it yourself for air testing however testing for radon in the water is also available if on a well.

4)      Berkshire home  Septic System – in Berkshire County Massachusetts this is referred to as a Title V ( Title Five) inspection and must be conducted by a person with the approved state licensing credentials. This particular inspection and certification is required under MA law whereas the above three areas of testing are not mandatory though highly recommended.

5)      Berkshire land Percolation Testing – this testing is done when purchasing vacant land to determine the suitability of the site for a septic system. All states in our region require this to be performed in order to obtain a building permit.

6)      Berkshire land Soil testing – in any case where contamination from a hazardous spill or leak is suspected then soil evaluations are done to determine the level of contamination, the type of contaminants and the necessary remediation procedure. It is routine to perform initial site history review on any commercial real estate but buyers should be cautious to consider the fuel type history of other properties such as agricultural or even homes to determine if there may have been spills or buried fuel tanks.

7)      Berkshire home Asbestos – asbestos may be present in a variety of building materials and as such if demolition or remodeling is under consideration testing should be conducted to determine if there is asbestos containing material present from shingles, to flooring to popcorn type paints and insulation and the process of removal.

8)      Berkshire home Lead Paint – this is of particular concern in residential dwellings and it is illegal to have children under the age of six occupying full time a dwelling where this is known to be present. A licensed lead inspector is required to perform lead tests although there are very inexpensive self-test kits available at hardware stores. Keep in mind that even if you do the self-testing, if lead paint is discovered under the law de-leading would be mandatory if young children occupy the house or apartment, owned or rented.

9)     Berkshire home  UFFI – ureaformaldehyde foam was a very popular form of insulation in the 70’s and very effective as an insulator but often the installations gave off excessive formaldehyde fumes which were a troublesome health hazard and thus the foam was banned. There are new foams on the market today that are highly effective insulation materials and non-hazardous.

Berkshires property agency Harsch Real Estate can help you in finding professional home inspectors.  Call one of our agents today to begin your Berkshire home search.

Happy House Hunting,

Paul Harsch

Williamstown Holiday Walk 2013 Reindog Parade and Holiday Trees

rafa makes front page  Williamstown Holiday Walk 2013 was smashing.  Williamstown MA celebrated the 30th annual Reindog Parade as hundreds lined Spring Street by Williams College to watch as the dogs walked their owners.  The costumes were in good taste and the finale included a fire truck bearing Santa to town.

We are so proud of our little office dog Rafa who made the front page of the North Adams Transcript on Monday of this week.  Rafa was wearing his frog dog costume, however it appears the he strongly resembled The Grinch as the paper described him.  His owner Nurit Berman was prouder than we were.

Enjoy our “How to arrange a Reindog Parade by THE DOG”  video and then relax with a tour through all the decorated Habitat for Humanity Auction Trees at the First Congregational Church on Main Street in Williamstown.  It was a fine way to kick off this 2013 Holiday Season in the Berkshires.  Harsch Associates wishes everyone everywhere Happy Holidays!

Berkshires Fair Market Value pricing for Sellers

home sales in berkshire county ma

Comparing a recently listed home with local trends.

Berkshires Fair Market Value Defined and Revisited  in 2013

OK, so Berkshire County home sellers are depressed and teeter between hope and worry. Meanwhile local Berkshire home buyers are confused and hesitant.  Most Berkshire real estate agents and brokers fall somewhere in the middle and lean either way depending on the week.  Understanding Berkshires Fair Market value isn’t so hard.

Since I began my career in 1975, I have noticed that real estate in our Berkshire County market area rises and falls with the general tide of the overall US economy but with some moderation relative to more volatile markets.

I have tracked the average median selling price of single family homes in Berkshire County since reliable county wide records became available in 1987 and the average rate of appreciation over that time span is 6% per annum. That sounds pretty good in fact but like the stock market, there have been ups and downs and timing is everything as they say.

For example, if you had purchased in 2000 and sold in ’07, the peak year  in the most recent run-up in prices,  you would have been able to anticipate roughly a 60% appreciation, all other things remaining the same. However, if you had waited just two more years to sell, you would have had to give up over 20% of that gain.  Those who purchased recently have not fared so well. Prices today have dropped back at least to ‘04/’05 levels.

So, what is fair market value?  Simply put, it’s the price an informed buyer and seller who are not under pressure, agree on.

Why are inventories so high while interest rates are so low? Sure there are not as many buyers in the mood or condition to buy but equally important are the sellers and many agents who just don’t price their property to the market.

Can you imagine going to your stock broker and insisting on selling your stock in XYZ Corp for 80 when the current price being paid is 65? The broker will tell you that you can insist all day long on what a great company it is or that you have to get 80 because you paid 70 and deserve to make a little profit too but in the end, no one is going to pay you 80 for a stock that is only selling for 65.

Berkshires Real estate, to the surprise of many people and agents too, is similar to stocks. There is a supply and there is demand and the two work in tandem.  For example, if someone insists their property is worth $500,000 but can be built brand new on a comparable parcel of land for $400,000, it is not likely to sell for $500,000. Or, if there are other similar homes available being offered around $400,000, the chances of selling this one at $500,000 are pretty slim.

So, how does a seller know what their property should sell for in the first place, if they really want the facts?  A licensed appraiser is one approach.  Be sure to get one with an excellent reputation for accurate work. Like any other profession, there are good and not so good ones and it’s no use to you to get an appraisal if the appraiser, or worse, the hopeful real estate agent is pricing your property to please you.

Another approach is to look at the average rise and fall of Berkshire county homes in your area based on the median selling prices obtained and apply that to your Berkshire property in particular. That is fairly accurate unless you have made substantial changes or investment in your property but even then, by applying the formula  that takes in to account the relative change in median prices from one year to the next, you can arrive at a very reasonable estimate of current fair market value.

There definitely are Berkshire home buyers today and would be even more, if more Berkshires sellers and Berkshire real estate agents were in tune with the Berkshire County real estate market. For example, I presented an offer for a buyer who wanted to purchase a Berkshire County property based on our analysis, of $710,000 on a Berkshire home that was listed at $949,000. The Berkshires property had been exposed to the market for almost nine months during the best part of the selling season with no offers. The highest figure we could arrive at using our unique in-house statistical formula was $700,000. The home happened to have been purchased in 1988 so we had accurate per annum adjustments to work with plus a generous allowance for an addition. The Berkshire seller just could not come to terms with such a blow to his expectations even though the Berkshire broker acknowledged that the seller  had most likely very substantially overestimated the value of the property at the time of listing.

Fair Market Value is determinable through fairly rational analysis, not guesswork.  If a Berkshires property  seller is sincerely motivated to sell, then a careful and rational approach to the listing and selling of their property is the best bet. Anything else is a waste of time as proven by the very long periods Berkshire properties remain unsold on the market.  There are almost as many overly optimistic prices suggested by eager real estate agents seeking a signed agreement for the listing as there are overly aggressive sellers thinking their property defies a rational approach to pricing.

Best advice: work with  experienced Berkshires property and real estate Broker who thoughtfully analyzes the market and will provide you with carefully documented statistics that substantiate the pricing recommendations or better yet, hire a licensed Berkshire county real estate appraiser.

Give up the hope that a rich out of town buyer  will pay a higher than actual market value price for the property. Out of town buyers have done their homework before they begin looking at homes. No matter how you earn your money everyone feels the same about getting the most for the dollars spent.

Fair Market Value is what Berkshire properties actually will sell for.  Just ask an experienced agent about how many homes that have been sold have been reduced in price the past year.  Also remember to ask how long that property was on the market before the seller opted for a fair market value price.

Paul Harsch

berkshire property for sale fair market value

Figuring fair market value takes time. Ask every real estate agent for the statistics for the past 12 months before you list your Berkshire property.

Are you represented in your Berkshire Property Sale or Purchase?

Are You Represented in your Berkshire Property sale or purchase?

berkshire property for sale berkshires

Are you represented in your Berkshires property purchase?

What’s all the fuss about Berkshire buyer and seller’s agents, facilitators, designated agents, dual agents, limited agents?  Confused?  So are many real estate licensees. It’s a bewildering set of options most people don’t fully understand and many don’t really care. So why should you care?

Good reasons.

Everyone knows that the purchase or sale of one’s home is likely the largest single transaction they will ever make. We clip coupons, pick the cheapest gas station, watch the tip on our restaurant tab but ironically don’t reflect much on the choices we make in picking the person to work with when we purchase or sell real estate. Does it matter? Sometimes not much and sometimes a great deal.

Who the Berkshire real estate salesperson or Berkshire broker represents in a transaction and how well they do this can make a very significant financial difference in the final bottom line. Does the real estate buyer work with the real estate seller’s designated agent or a different agent representing them?  Does the buyer or seller work with a facilitator or transaction broker instead of an agent? Does the real estate company practice dual agency, limited or designated agency and how might these options favor the buyer or the seller? There is more to this than most people realize and it will impact the outcome of your next real estate purchase or sale.

Confusion about the Berkshire Property purchase or Berkshire property sale and who is taking care of you is understandable.

Agents are obligated by law to be concerned only with their client’s interests be it with price or terms or confidentiality. Agents are obligated by law to follow the instructions of their clients. They are not supposed to make any decisions or take initiative on their own. They are “the arm and mouthpiece of their principals”, they are advocates for their clients much like an attorney would be.

A transaction broker or facilitator is dedicated to helping both sides as a neutral person interested in bringing the parties together at a fair deal for both sides, not in taking advantage, one side over the other, much like a mediator would.

For Berkshire property buyers and Berkshire home sellers wanting to purchase or sell at fair value, with full disclosure of all facts such that both sides can make fully informed decisions, facilitation can be the best course to follow. The facilitator is committed to creating a level playing field. The agent is duty bound to try to seek any advantage they can for their client.

What happens when a buyer is pursuing a property listed by a seller’s agent but the buyer does not have an agent or facilitator of their own?  This is probably the riskiest scenario for the buyer. They are completely unrepresented and have no one to help them determine fair value or to uncover every possible issue or concern. Chances are that buyer will pay more for the property than they would otherwise pay or have to deal with some problem with the property they could have avoided had they had the benefit of their own representative, either facilitator or agent. (Some states like Vermont and New York do not offer transaction brokerage or facilitation within their real estate rules but changes are always under consideration).

real estate agent berkshires

Who is representing you in the sale or purchase of a property?

Leveling the playing field was the purpose behind the growth in buyer agency but agency on both sides of a transaction can create needless friction and contest of wills; never pleasant. The facilitator seeks a middle road without having to posture or play hard ball. He or she just has to demonstrate where fair value falls and provide full disclosure to both sides.

As property values in around the Berkshires and neighboring VT and NY have fallen following the bursting of the real estate bubble in ’07, many sellers are understandably feeling discouraged and defensive. Buyers are oftentimes over cautious and hesitant. Helping both sides to a potential transaction understand and reach a satisfactory middle ground is the most beneficial approach without creating unnecessary additional stresses or conflict.  This is the sort of outcome often popularized by the phrase “Win-Win”.


Paul Harsch

November 10, 2013

Berkshire property Broker-Harsch Real Estate

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