Home sales along Interstate 495 have surged in the past year, with towns from Plainville to Ayer seeing a big jump in the number of properties changing hands.
While prices along the highway have yet to recover from the beating they took during the recession, brokers say the brisk sales may mean home values are poised for a turnaround as well.
“We are seeing the market really pick up and gain some steam,” said Thomas Skahen, co-owner and founder of Littleton-based PrimeTime Communities, which tracks new development in the suburban housing market. “We are going to see price increases again — there is not a lot of inventory.”
Home sales through November 2012 were up in more than 15 communities along the I-495 corridor, compared with the same period in 2011, according to The Warren Group.
Medway, Hopkinton, and Northborough were among the towns that experienced the sharpest rise in home sales, the Boston-based real estate publisher and data firm reported.
“I am seeing a huge burst of activity,” said Risa Bell, a lead agent for MetroWest at Redfin, an online real estate brokerage.
An improving economy and rising home prices are helping to fuel a real estate comeback out on I-495, according to some observers.
From Burlington to Newton, communities along the Route 128 corridor have seen prices rise steadily over the past few years, despite a sluggish market in other parts of the state. In fact, some towns in the Route 128 area are nearing or have even surpassed the price records set during the real estate boom of the mid-2000s, real estate records show.
That has some home buyers now looking farther west for more affordable prices in Medway and other towns along I-495.
Paul Yorkis, broker-owner of Patriot Real Estate in Medway, said he is seeing a mix of buyers looking for homes along 495. Some are transplants from other states coming to take jobs in the Boston area’s fast-growing life sciences sector, while others are first-time buyers looking to leap into the market and take advantage of rock-bottom mortgage rates while they last.
“As 128 gets saturated with sales and when inventory gets low and prices start getting very high, that is when buyers start saying, ‘What can I get farther west?’ ” Yorkis said. “Over time, that works its way out to 495.”
It’s a big change from two years ago, when buyers were hard to find along I-495.
A number of towns have seen sales soar over the past year, with Hopkinton (37.5 percent), Medway (46.9 percent), Northborough (44.9 percent), and Wrentham (43 percent) leading the way, according to year-to-date sales numbers compiled by The Warren Group as of November.
Others, like Ayer (20 percent), Milford (16.7 percent), Plainville (24 percent), Bellingham (8.4 percent), and Franklin (5.7 percent), also saw significant increases, the firm reports.
What was until this week an unusually mild January has also helped maintain sales during what typically would be a slow winter market, real estate brokers report.
Yorkis is preparing to put three homes on the market, including a large, $729,000 Colonial in Medway. It is an unusual burst of activity for mid-January, he notes.
And if the weather becomes mild again, that could potentially lead to an early start to a spring sales market that usually doesn’t begin until February or March, said Alex Coon, market manager for the Boston area office of Redfin.
“If we start really seeing volume in listings over the next two weeks, we can say the spring market started in January,” Coon said.
However, home prices along the I-495 corridor, with a few exceptions, have yet to turn around, with some towns seeing significant declines in 2012, even as overall sales shot through the roof.
Hopkinton saw a 3 percent price increase, to $535,000, to go along with its big jump in sales, Warren Group records showed.
Other towns were not so fortunate. Medway saw prices fall 4.8 percent, to $313,000, while prices in Franklin dipped 4.1 percent to $350,000, Warren Group numbers show.
Still, those still slumping prices could be poised for a turnaround over the coming year, with the 495 area experiencing a shortage of inventory similar to what is being seen closer to Boston, said Yorkis and others.Scott Van Voorhis can be reached at email@example.com.