Archive for the 'Buying a home' Category

Berkshires Best Small Town in America Williamstown MA

Wednesday, June 11th, 2014

The Best Small Town in America Williamstown MA

williamstown real estate

Best Small Town in America Williamstown MA


The Village Beautiful

Everyone has their own favorite and usually it’s the town they grew up in or live in, or at least I hope many can feel that way about where they live.
For me, Williamstown MA is the best small town in America and I thought I’d write about why that is for me. I can imagine there are quite a few other Williamstown residents who probably share my view, at least on many of the points if not all.
First of all, I like the lack of traffic and Williamstown has none except when there’s something big going on like the Williams alumni parade or fall alumni homecoming. Even on those rare occasions a driver can drive the length of Main St. from the Library in the West to the Williamstown town line in the east is five minutes give or take and pass through just one traffic light which by the way, is more often than not, green as it changes only on demand.
I like the fact you can dine out at any one of about 15 different restaurants and almost never have to wait for a table, how great is that!
Williamstown MA has its own independent movie theater which shows a kaleidoscope of different films most of which never hit the big commercial theaters.
Another reason the town is my number one pick is thanks to Williams College. Awesome! Residents can attend athletic events, theater, use the college’s outstanding facilities like the pool, squash and tennis courts, gym for modest fees or audit courses. This is no ordinary town thanks to the college and Williams as is well known, is no ordinary college. Students are among the top in the nation. We don’t have the wild fraternity scene or crazy behavior that some university towns have to deal with but instead we host smart, hardworking, ambitious and outstanding students who for the most part are focused on their studies.
How about the scenery! Some of the best in the nation I wager. Any time of year it’s just beautiful here. No, we don’t have the Rockies and no we don’t have the Pacific but neither do we have a dense urban environment either. Here we enjoy plentiful natural beauty at our doorsteps while for those needing an urban escape the big cities are only a few hours away.
Our climate is terrific too. Yes we have winter and what a wonderful time of year that is when those who enjoy winter sports are in their glory and we can turn inwards in the winter and get lots of good reading done and enjoy time by the fire.
Spring and fall are spectacular seasons and of course summer, brief as it is, allows us time for gardening, boating, golf, tennis, outdoor cultural events, hiking and basking in the summer sun.

home in Williamstown MA

Calling Williamstown Home

home definition
The town is really clean. I like that. It’s not that there isn’t an occasional bit of litter around but by and large we’re so happy with the way our town looks that people will pick up trash and put it in its proper place. The water is clean, the air mostly clean (we can’t do much about what blows here from other parts of the country), our streets are clean and everyone keeps their properties looking really well kept.
Close to home for me is of course real estate and I can say that in this respect too, Williamstown is the best small town in America because it is “just right”. There is something that fits just about any budget and our values are near the mid-range in the nation. We are neither a rich nor a poor town but we have residents who fit in just about every point of the spectrum from quite wealthy to those who need and receive our support and help. Affordability has actually improved since the recession so housing here is again much more affordable. The town has committed to building more affordable housing because we try to make it possible for as many who would like to live here to be able to do so.
Call me unusual if you like but living where I do in this gorgeous valley and wonderful small town I don’t feel the urge or necessity of going away on vacation. There were years past when we did but more to take the children to see their grandparents. I traveled quite a bit as a younger person and have seen some wonderful places but I never found one I could say today that I’d rather live there. Having done my traveling I find I am blessed and quite content to enjoy the Berkshires in every season.
One more reason to consider Williamstown as the best town in America is the people. What a great bunch. Relatively open minded, committed to learning, committed to the quality of life here, interested in the arts, living a healthy life-style, showing consideration for others. We are not a fanatical bunch and we have a wide variety of interests and talents. Unlike a ski town for example where everyone is engaged in one way or another in that activity or a yachting community, Williamstown is home to a spectrum of different interests although I will acknowledge that education and learning are a prominent focus.
So there you have it, my short list of reasons why Williamstown is number one in my book (I hope everyone not fortunate enough to live here will write their own list about how they like their own town best) and while we don’t ever want to see it become over crowded we would welcome anyone else who cares to join us. It’s simply a great place to live!

williamstown autumn colors

Welcome to our town.
Williamstown MA

Paul Harsch
Copyright 2014

Berkshire Home for sale “The Gorge”

Wednesday, May 28th, 2014
berkshire real estate for sale

New Ashford Rustic Retreat called “The Gorge”

Berkshire home for sale is a property with rustic ambience set on “The Gorge” actually a rushing stream.  This home borders a beautiful stream with dramatic rock walls and falls, here is your Berkshire County second home retreat, harking back to a simpler time. No fancy high end granite counters in the kitchen, no lavishly tiled baths with waterfall shower heads but instead the look and feel of a centuries old colonial post and beam three story house where we can easily imagine a writer quietly plying their trade just as easily as we can imagine a happy bunch of skiers coming up for wonderful winter weekends or a family making this their full time home. Enjoy gardening?

There is a place for that next to the stone terrace, enjoy fine dining, stroll a few hundred feet up the path to one of the Berkshires’ most renowned small and sophisticated restaurants, The Mill on The Floss. Low taxes and nearby to Williamstown, theatre, art, mountains, it is all here in the Berkshires and this can be your base.  This Berkshire home offers New England beauty and sturdy construction meant to last for generations.

rustic second home in the berkshires

A second home in the Berkshires for the discerning buyer.

real estate agency berkshires

Stone, wood and character make up this woodland retreat

Berkshires Williamstown MA home for sale near Williams College

Tuesday, May 27th, 2014
The Clark Art near to home for sale

Williamstown MA home for sale near to Williams College and all the Berkshire Events.

This spotlessly fresh Williamstown MA home for sale is a 4 bedroom garrison colonial home with a 1 car attached garage has a most beautiful elevated setting amid a very attractively landscaped yard surrounded by mature trees. Views can be enjoyed of horses in a nearby field, mountains and Bridges Pond. Gleaming hardwood floors will delight, formal living and dining rooms will invite and the generous well equipped kitchen will excite (the taste buds that is).

Much care has been given this well-loved Williamstown home with significant updating in new heating system, new replacement windows throughout (increasing the energy efficiency)  and  a separate area for a home office or guest visits with a 3/4 bath and private entry.  The light and clean lower level is complete with multiple storage cabinetry, carpeted family room area, laundry and storage/workshop room.     The back yard has a new storage shed for your garden equipment and a wonderful possibility for a deck or patio in this private space. The location is a fifteen minute walk to Main St., Williams College, the Williamstown Summer Theater Festival  and all Williamstown has to offer.

First Floor

Kitchen: 11’6” x 14’, vinyl flooring, good –sized pantry

property for sale Williamstown

Walk to Williams College in 15 minutes from the home for sale in Williamstown MA

Living Room:   12’ x 22’, hard wood floors

Dining Room: 10’6” x 11’9”, hardwood floors

Half Bath: 4’9” x’ 6’8”, vinyl flooring, granite-surfaced vanity

Office/ Guest space: 11’ x 24’, carpeted with 3/4 bath and plenty of dry upstairs storage; separate entrance.


Second Floor:

Master Bedroom: 11’5” x 16’, hard wood floor; double closet

2nd Bedroom: 11’2” x 11’10”, hardwood floor, double closet

3rd Bedroom: 8’7” x 11’4”, hardwood floor, double closet

4th Bedroom: 11’5” x 14’3”, hardwood floor, double closet

Full Bath: 6’8” x 7’10”, vanity with granite surface, ceramic tiled walls and surround


Lower Level/Basement:

Family Room: Carpeted with multiple cabinetry for storage

Laundry area: laminate floor; washer/dryer and vanity with sink

Utility/workshop area: completely updated boiler




Foundation: Poured Concrete YearBuilt:1968 TotalSq.Ft: 1856 plus finished lower level.
Floors:  hardwood, carpet, vinyl Siding: wood Driveway: Paved
Roof:  Asphalt/Fiberglass Windows: new double pane throughout w/argon gas
Water: City Sewer: City Heat: Baseboard HW; office/guest space-electric Hot water:  Oil, on demand
Zoning: Residential  Parcel Size: .52 Possession: At Closing
Assessment: $286,500. TaxYear: 2014 Taxes: $4117.
Insulation: R 50 insulation value in attic
Book: 1382 Page:482 Map: 117 Lot: 10
LeadPaint:  unk Smoke/CODetectors: Yes ExteriorLighting: Yes CableTV: Yes





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

Monday, March 31st, 2014

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 Real Estate|Where will you live?

Friday, March 28th, 2014

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

Monday, March 24th, 2014
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





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

Sunday, March 2nd, 2014

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

Monday, January 20th, 2014

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

Berkshires Williamstown Holiday Walk 2013 Reindog Parade and Holiday Trees

Thursday, December 12th, 2013

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

Sunday, November 10th, 2013
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.

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