Though housing demand has risen across the state—and country—due to low inventory, investing in real estate is still feasible and attractive in Springfield, Massachusetts.
Homebuyers and investors tired of competing in the Boston market are flocking to Western Massachusetts. Why buy a home in an area with a median home price of nearly $3.5 million and exorbitant cost of living when you could escape to the hub of New England, improve your quality of life, potentially take your job remote, and take advantage of dream-world home prices?
Many around the state have been asking themselves that exact question, and some are acting upon it and relocating to Springfield, where the median home price is $280,000, even in today’s crazy seller’s market.
I, in fact, am one of those people. I made the move from Boston to Springfield in 2019 when I decided to buy a home, but couldn’t find anything affordable for my $300,000 budget. After months of looking in Boston and then in Southern New Hampshire, I expanded my search to Western Massachusetts and found my dream home in the Forest Park Historic District. It was the best decision of my life—I love this community, and I believe the investment will pay off.
In fact, there are quite a few reasons why I encourage others—particularly out of the Boston area—to consider moving to or investing in Springfield or Hampden County, at large. Here are the top five reasons why you should consider investing in Springfield real estate now, whether that’s residential or commercial.
- Remote Workers are Migrating from Boston
In light of the Covid-19 pandemic, city dwellers—particularly those who can work remotely or transfer jobs easily within big companies—are flocking to Western Massachusetts. Lower costs of living and better quality of life have Bostonians and New Yorkers, for example, wondering why they hadn’t made the move sooner.
Moving to Western Massachusetts, though, could become a sweeter deal for remote workers and telecommuters. Massachusetts Senator Eric Lesser has been working on the Remote Worker Incentive Program since before the pandemic when remote working became the norm for many. The program would allocate $1 million over a three-year incentive period to eligible new citizens who bring their remote work to Hampden, Hampshire, Franklin or Berkshire County. Grantees would receive up to $10,000 to relocate to the region.
The program mirrors an incentive offered by Vermont since 2018—the state pays new Vermonters up to $10,000 over two years to relocate for either remote work or to accept a new job. In 2020, the number of remote workers and out-of-staters buying homes in Vermont surged by 38%. Lawmakers voted in May 2021 to extend the program, approving an additional $630,000 beyond the initial $500,000 program. Similar programs exist in Maine, Ohio, Iowa, and other states for incentivizing moves to certain cities or regions.
Lesser’s proposal funnels money directly to individual workers, who boost the local economy by increasing demand for goods and services, he tells WGBY. And, it may be the solution to Boston’s housing and congestion crisis, writes Joan Vennochi in The Boston Globe. A win-win for the entire state.
Being that recent reports suggest that a third of Massachusetts workers can work remotely, this program, if put in place, could be a big deal for the Bay State.
- Property Values are Rising Rapidly—and Yet Still Affordable
Property values have risen across the board with the pandemic, but not all tides rose evenly. Over a two-year period (2019-2021), Boston experienced a 15% increase in home values, with a current median sales price of $3,462,500. Springfield, however, is both much more affordable for buyers, and grew at double that rate—rising 31% over the same period, with a current median sales price of $215,000, WBUR reports. In fact, the majority of the fastest growing home values across the state took place in Western Massachusetts, as detailed in an interactive graphic embedded into the WBUR piece.
Massachusetts home values hit an all-time high last month, with the median-priced Massachusetts home also hitting an all-time high at more than $500,000.
While Hampden County’s median home price increased 20% year-over-year, it’s still an affordable $280,000. Meanwhile, Springfield homeowners are also benefiting from a nearly 60% five-year value increase on single-families, and a 75% five-year value increase on multi-families. The greater Hampden County real estate market boasts 38% and 57% value increases, respectively, for single-family and multi-family properties. (Source: MLS PIN market review report, August 2017 to August 2021, median sale prices).
Western Massachusetts—Hampden County, in particular, and Springfield, specifically—is the place to be for affordability and rising home values.
- Quality of Life is Incomparable
On top of fantastic economic reasons to make the move to Springfield, incomparable quality of life in the region is hands-down a deal-maker for would-be Pioneer Valley residents.
Springfield itself is home to a ton of relaxation and entertainment options. Right off the bat, you’ve got Forest Park, the 735-acre Victorian park that was designed by renowned landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, who also designed Central Park in New York City and the Emerald Necklace in Boston. If the lily ponds, winding trails, rose garden, and historic Barney carriage house aren’t your style, you can always head to the swimming pool, tennis courts, basketball courts, baseball fields, or zoo for leisure. There’s also The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fall, the Springfield Museums, the Springfield Jazz & Roots Festival, The Connecticut River Walk and Bikeway, the MGM Grand Casino, and a ton of outdoors activities, restaurants and bars, nearby farms, wineries, and breweries, and plenty more.
Six Flags New England and The Big E, New England’s largest fair, just minutes away as well. On top of that, you can always escape to the Berkshires, New Hampshire, the Finger Lakes, or down to the Connecticut sea coast for a weekend trip, no sweat. Leaf peeping season will soon be upon us—a trip up 91, and you’re in prime viewing for fall foliage.
- High-Speed Rail Would Reduce Commute Times, Increase Job Access
Senator Lesser is on top of another initiative—a high-speed east-west rail—that would bring economic development to Western Massachusetts while also alleviating the housing crunch in the Boston area.
The rail initiative would involve building new track infrastructure along the I-90 “Mass Pike” corridor, making a commute from Springfield to Boston possible in as little as 80 minutes, or to Worcester in half that time. Currently, that drive takes just under or about 2 hours, depending on where you’re coming from and going, as well as how traffic is flowing. If traveling by bus, it’ll clock you 3-4 hours.
Lessening the commute to larger cities from Springfield would enable Springfield residents and newcomers to attain much higher-paying jobs, while also taking advantage of the lower housing costs and cost of living. Meanwhile, increased housing demand in Springfield would mean rising home values for homeowners and real estate investors to cash in on over time.
“We’re at a closer and more exciting moment than we’ve ever been,” Lesser said of the initiative in an interview with Business West. “With Joe Biden in office, with the feasibility study done … after eight years of advocacy and work, we have the best chance we’ve ever had of making this reality.”
On top of that, rail transport giant Amtrak is also eyeing expansion into Western Massachusetts, onward to Albany, by way of Springfield.
“This new corridor service increases mobility for western Massachusetts and upstate New York to the Boston area and broader Northeast region connections,” Amtrak says in its vision plan.
It is time that Springfield regains its position as the hub of New England, as it once served during the Industrial Revolution, when it was touted as America’s industrial center, and the crossroads that connected New England’s biggest cities.
- Downtown Revitalization Efforts are Strong
If Springfield’s revival by way of the $950 million MGM Grand Casino and hotel, which opened in 2018, isn’t enough to convince you that Springfield is a hot spot for investment in Massachusetts, take note of the additional downtown revitalization efforts happening in the city.
The Springfield Business Improvement District (SBID) is one local organization funding improvements and promotion of the 26-block district in downtown Springfield, which is home to a thriving and growing arts, culture, and entertainment hub for the region. The organization puts on festivals and events, promotes local businesses and initiatives, and attracts investment in the district area.
Downtown Springfield is a great place for small business owners to consider setting up shop, too. There are incentives—through MassDevelopment’s Downtown Springfield Transformative Development Initiative, for example—for starting up downtown, such as reduced commercial rents, business plan coaching assistance, and scaffolded growth from small-to-large retail space as your business grows.
SBID, Springfield’s Planning & Economic Development office, The Community Foundation of Western Mass, DevelopSpringfield, The Mass Mutual Foundation, MassDevelopment, and the Springfield Cultural Partnership are among the many organizations partnering to revitalize downtown Springfield.
Bottom Line: Springfield is Ripe for Investment
Springfield is a vibrant community full of people who care about bringing it back to its Industrial Age glory. Like many investors in the area, I was drawn to Springfield from the Boston area when I learned about the city’s colorful history as an American manufacturing and innovation hub during its heyday in the Industrial Revolution. It was the site of the first American English dictionary (1805, Noah Webster), the first American horseless car (1825, Thomas Blanchard), and the first American motorcycle (1901, Indian Motorcycles), among other innovations.
Today, the Pioneer Valley continues its legacy as a precision manufacturing leader, and it is regaining popularity as the hub of New England, as a connecting port to major cities including New York, Boston, Hartford, New Haven, and Worcester. With up-and-coming initiatives, such as the east-west passenger rail and a remote work relocation incentive, Springfield has the opportunity to develop a new chapter that even surpasses its former glory. The budding startup ecosystem—with organizations such as Valley Venture Mentors and EforAll Holyoke—and the excellent work coming out of UMass Amherst’s Berthiaume Center for Entrepreneurship give me great hope, too.
All of these developments make Springfield an ideal place for real estate investing. Multi-family, single-family, and commercial property opportunities can be found all over the city, if only in shadow inventory. If you drive downtown, you’ll still find vacant, street-level commercial space. Driving through residential areas, you’ll find abandoned multi-families and adorable historic single-families. This city is ripe for accelerated revitalization.
There has been no better time for investing in Springfield, except for a couple years ago, before the MGM Grand arrived. But if you missed that train, there is still time to reap the rewards of a growing Western Massachusetts ecosystem. Get involved in Springfield, as it’s the engine powering that growth.