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Signs Of Recovery Even With The Cliff!

A repost of Jennifer McKim’s article in the Boston Globe follows. It shows significant evidence that we are in a real estate recovery even in the broader Massachusetts market.  We have been experiencing The Recovery in downtown Boston and on the outer Cape for months now, but this broader evidence is very welcome news as we enter the NewYear.

The pullquote below from the article states what we are hearing all aross the country. Good news especially as we deal with the ramifications of the possible Fiscal Cliff.

It feels like a housing market that has now switched into the mode of helping drive a recovery,

The Boston Globe/December 28, 2012/Jennifer McKim GLOBE STAff

  • Analysts say prices remained stable, while the number of single­family units sold rose steeply
  • A surge in home sales in November and strengthening property values are adding to a growing sentiment in the real estate industry that 2012 will mark when the housing market in Massachusetts officially began its recovery.

SOURCE: The Warren Group
With the supply of available properties still thin, homes are selling quickly and prices are edging up, prompting real estate specialists to predict that the days of bargain prices for residences are likely to be over soon.

“This year marks the shift in housing,” said John Ranco of Hammond Residential Real Estate in South Boston. “Over the next couple of years we will start to see prices heat up a little bit.”

Last month, 4,539 single-family properties traded owners — the best November for sales since the market peak in 2005, the Warren Group, a Boston company that tracks local real estate, reported Thursday.

The number of single-family home sales through the first 11 months of 2012 exceeded that of all of last year, and the year will probably be the strongest since 2006.

Through the first 11 months of the year, home prices were about where they were for 2011 — at a median price of $288,000 — a trend that industry officials said represents a stabilized market.

In the more active market in Greater Boston, median prices were 1.1 percent above where they were in 2011, at $456,500 for single-family properties, according to the Greater Boston Association of Realtors. It’s been seven years since the housing market in Massachusetts first showed signs of slowing, and during the steepest period of the downturn values plunged 20 percent, the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices show. Prices have since rebounded modestly, though values have also bounced during the past three years.

But now, prices appear to be on the upswing — with Boston area home values up 1.6 percent in October, compared with the same month in 2011, according to Case-Shiller, which measures repeat sales and is largely considered the best marker of the housing industry.

“It is clear that the housing recovery is gaining strength,’’ said David M. Blitzer, chairman of the index committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices.

This good news comes despite uncertainty over the socalled fiscal cliff and possible changes in the mortgage interest deduction, which provides thousands of dollars in annual savings to many mortgage holders.

There are still many unknowns that could turn the market around.

However, Eric Belsky, managing director of Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies, said he foresees a strong spring season, propelled by tight inventory and low mortgage rates. He also expects markets outside of Boston to strengthen.

It feels like a housing market that has now switched into the mode of helping drive a recovery,” Belsky said.

Meanwhile, the condo market appears to be even stronger. The number of condos sold in November, 1,635, was 33 percent above the number a year earlier, according to the Warren Group. Year-to-date condo sales rose 27 percent, compared with a year earlier.

Prices are up, too. The median condo sales price was $275,000 in November, more than 7 percent higher than a year earlier.

Warren Group chief executive Timothy M. Warren Jr. said the condo market is thriving because young people and baby boomers are increasingly interested in living in the city, with all its amenities. “Urban living is gaining ground,” he said.

Both condos and single-family homes are selling faster this year, too. And so the supply of available properties is tightening: The number of single-family homes on the market last month was 25.9 percent fewer than in November 2011, with similar declines in the condo market.

Mary O’ Donaghue, president of the the Northeast Association of Realtors, said she expects that improving consumer confidence, low interest rates, and tight inventory will keep housing moving in the spring.

We are entering a spring market with close to ideal conditions,” she said.


Boston’s Fiscal (Listing) Cliff

Great post from Curbed Boston Blog!

Here is the latest installment of Bates By the Numbers, a weekly feature by broker David Bates that drills down into the Hub’s housing market to uncover those trends you would not otherwise see. This week, David looks at the effects of Boston’s absurdly low condo inventory on the city

Boston%20Inventory%20as%20of%2012-12.jpgMcDonald’s would never run out of hamburgers.

Amazon would never run out of books.

But could Greater Boston run out of reasonably priced condos?

Currently, the city’s on-market condominium inventory is scary low. It’s so low that if we were using actively marketed Boston condos as gas for our car, we might not make it to the closest station to fill up. A year ago, Boston had nearly twice as many condos on the market as it does today. Brookline had two-and-a-half times its current condo selection and South Boston was marketing more than three times the 46 condos currently being marketed. Put simply: Regardless of price, there are very few condos available to buy in Boston; and, when demand is high and supply is low, prices go up.

You might not realize how the pricing menu of Greater Boston condos has changed in just a year. A year ago (12/12/11), the median list price of an on-market condo in the South End was $575K. Today, the median is $749K. Which is more incredible: the $174K increase or the fact that 02118 now has a 90210 median list price?

In Greater Boston, rising median list prices are not relegated to the South End. Brookline’s median list price for on-market condos is $202K higher than it was a year ago, up from $538K to $740K. And a year ago in Back Bay, the median list price for on-market condos was a cool million—today it is a cool $1.47 million. That new median might get Robin Leach excited, but if you’re looking for modestly priced Boston condos to buy, it’s an indication you just might have a better chance of seeing the Jets win the Super Bowl this year.

When Boston housing prices spiraled out of control between 2001 and 2005, the Boston Foundation’s Housing Report Card stated that it contributed to 60,000 more people leaving the Hub than coming to it, many of them in the 20- to 34-year-old age demographic. FYI, back in 2005, when there was no marketing of condos after they had technically found buyers, the city had five times the amount of condos on the market as it does today and the median listing price of the on-market inventory was $390K. Today the median list price of Boston’s on-market available-to-purchase inventory is $483K, which provokes the request: Would the last hipster to leave the Hub please take the titanium spork with him?

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Mass. Home Sales Up 22% YTD

Todays very positive Boston Globe real estate headline.

By Jenifer B. McKim



Buyers snapped up more than 4,000 single-family homes in Massachusetts last month, pushing the number of statewide sales for the first 10 months of 2012 above the total for all of last year.

Warren Group, a Boston real estate tracking company, reported Tuesday that home sales in October increased by 21 percent, to 4,044, compared with the same month last year, reflecting increased optimism about the state’s housing market.

Sales between January and October rose to 39,491, a 22 percent increase compared with those months in 2011.

“Record low mortgage rates, an improved economy, and growing consumer confidence are boosting the housing market in Massachusetts and around the country,” said Timothy M. Warren Jr., Warren Group’s chief executive.

The median home price remained relatively flat, however. For a single- family home, it held at $270,000 in October, similar to 12 months earlier, Warren Group said.

Between January and October, the median value slipped to $287,500, down nearly 1 percent compared with October 2011. That means half the properties sold above that price and half sold for less.

The state’s condominium market fared slightly better.

Condo sales were up 48.8 percent in October, compared with the same time last year. The median price rose to $255,000, less than 1 percent higher than October 2011.

Between January and October, the median price for condos went up slightly to $275,000, less than 1 percent higher than a year earlier.

The Massachusetts Association of Realtors, which also released data on Tuesday, offered slightly better housing numbers.

The association said that the median value of a single-family home increased modestly in October to $287,000, 4.4 percent above the October 2011 median.

The median condo price rose to $265,000, up 2 percent compared with that month last year.

The association tracks data from three affiliated listing services, while Warren Group bases its numbers on sales filed at registries of deeds.

As more prospective buyers took action, the number of available homes continued to drop. The inventory of single-family homes decreased by 23.5 percent in October 2012, compared with the same month last year, and the number of condos for sale declined by 32.2 percent, compared with October, 2011, the association said.

John Ranco, a senior sales associate with Hammond Residential Real Estate, said he hopes more people list their homes for sale in the new year, in anticipation of the traditionally busy spring selling season. Right now, Ranco said, many buyers remain frustrated.

“There is very little to choose from,” he said.

Housing numbers released Tuesday by the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices showed Boston-area home prices increased by 1.9 percent in September, compared with that month last year.

Nationwide, home values rose about 3.6 percent in September, compared with 2011, according to the index, which measures repeat sales of the same properties and is considered one of the best measures of the nation’s housing market.

David M. Blitzer, chairman of the index committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices, said the latest figures provide further evidence that the housing market is ascending.

“With six months of consistently rising home prices, it is safe to say that we are now in the midst of a recovery in the housing market,’’ Blitzer said.

Jenifer B. McKim can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @jbmckim.

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Boston Q3 Condo Sales Review

The Big Number is 21%. That’s the increase in condo sales year over year at the end of the 3rd quarter, September 30. Combined, all Boston neighborhoods saw a 21% increase in the number of condo sales year to date, a 3% increase in the average price of a condominium sold to $545K, and an 8% increase in the median sales price to $409K. This real estate market is healthy except for the continuing decrease in inventory levels. Inventory levels of available condo’s for sale have fallen 41% to 919 properties for sale versus 1,567 at this time last year.

The Back Bay,  saw a 20% increase in sales year to date, but the average price  of a condo sold dropped by 2% to $1.120M. The inventory level of condos for sale dropped 53% to 95 condos for sale vs 204 last year.

The South End saw a 13% increase in the number of condo sales to 425 condos sold year to date compared to 377 last year.  The average price of a condo sold increased 4% to $690K compared with $665K last year. The inventory of condos for sale decreased 52% from 173 last year to 83 today. This will continue to be a factor in market performance going forward.

South Boston saw a 28% increase in the number of condo sales year to date compared with 360 last year. The average sales price of a condo increased by 9% to $421K compared with $388K last year.  South Boston has the largest drop in inventory of all downtown n’hoods down 60% from 196 properties for sale last year to 78 available for sale today.

Inventory remains the problem, but as I have said repeatedly this market is so resilient and so desirable that declining inventory levels have not negatively effected the steady increase in sales and prices. Go figure!



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Are Buyers Bummed Out In Boston?

Scott at comes up withe some great posts and I have posted another one below. Scott talks about a Redfin survey that finds only 46% of buyers surveyed  think it is a good time for house hunting. This is apparent as well in all anecdotal information from the field specifically in downtown Boston. The issue remains lack of good available inventory and the impact that this will have in the “nascent real estate recovery. Jon

Posted by Scott Van Voorhis  September 4, 2012 07:59 AM

So says Redfin in a troubling new survey of buyers in 19 major metro markets across the country, including Boston.

Fewer than half the buyers out there – 46 percent – actually believe it is a good time to be house hunting, according to the online brokerage firm.

That’s a big shift from the first quarter, when hopes for deals and bargains was much higher among buyers as the spring sales season approached. Back then, 56 percent said it was good time to buy, Redfin notes.

However, probably the most dramatic change is in buyers’ expectations of where home prices are headed. The number of buyers who believe home prices are headed up has nearly doubled, to 61 percent from 32 percent in the first quarter.

So what’s made home buyers so glum?

Well bidding wars haven’t helped, with seven out of 10 buyers reporting they had encountered multiple bids on at least one offer, according to Redfin.

In fact, 31 percent of those surveyed said they would back off if confronted with another bidding war, up from 28 percent this spring.

Of course, at the root of the problem is a falling supply of homes for sale, a phenomenon that has endangered the nascent real estate recovery both here in Greater Boston and across the country.

Fewer choices have meant more bidding wars, rising prices and increasingly grumpy buyers. (The Redfin survey is based on the responses of 829 buyers during the week of Aug. 16-22.)

And the stumbling economy – and all those storm clouds over Europe’s rickety banking system – hasn’t helped cheer buyers up either.

The percentage of buyers worried about the economy rose to 27 percent from 20
percent in the first quarter.

We’ll just have to wait and see what the fall selling season brings, I guess.

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Boston Condo Prices Set Record… And A Scarcity Of Units Ensues!

Yesterdays Boston Globe article follows for those who didn’t see it. It is all the buzz!… and for good reason.

Globe Staff / July 24, 2012
Condominium values in Boston’s core reached a record high during the second quarter of this year as eager buyers drove up sales, according to data­ scheduled to be released Tuesday.
The median price in a dozen downtown neighborhoods — they include Beacon Hill, the Fenway, the North End, and South Boston — climbed to $515,000 during the three months that ended June 30, according to LINK, meaning half sold for more than that price and half for less. That topped the previous peak of $498,500 in 2008, just prior to the nation’s financial crisis. LINK, a Boston company, tracks the downtown condominium market.
The increase adds to mounting evidence that the state’s housing market is on the mend, housing specialists said.

The feeling out there is prices are not going to soften anymore,” said Barry ­Bluestone, the director of the Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy at Northeastern University. “We are seeing the real signs of a recovery in the housing market.”

Even during the worst years of the real estate industry’s decline, condominium prices in some of Boston’s more desirable areas fell only modestly, putting the local market in a better position to rebound. Prices and sales were propped up by higher-income homeowners who were hurt less during the recession, as well as by the increasing popularity of urban living coupled with limited inventory, housing specialists said.

“The city attracts young and old by providing fun and beauty, art and restaurants, all without needing a car,” said a Harvard University economist, Edward­ Glaeser, author of the book “Triumph of the City.”

Trisha Collins McCarthy, president of the Massachusetts Association of Realtors, said many condominium buyers like the idea of trading long, congested commutes for city conveniences. “We have more of a population that has said, ‘I want to be near the train,’ ’’ she said.

After dropping for a couple of years, downtown condo prices started to climb in 2010. This year, that growth has been bolstered by continued low interest rates and improving consumer confidence, according to housing specialists.

Condominium sales volume was up sharply during the second quarter of this year, to 1,051, or nearly 36 percent more than during the same three months of last year.

The median sale price of condominiums in luxury buildings — those that offer amenities such as concierge and valet services — also climbed.

The $779,000 median closing price for the luxury condos was 7.8 percent higher than during the second quarter of 2011, LINK said, compared with 7.5 percent higher for the all of the Boston neighborhoods measured by the company.

The number of luxury condo sales during the past three months increased by 22.2 percent to 198, the company said.

Statewide, single-family home values remained essentially flat in June, at $331,000, compared with June 2011, while the number of sales increased by 18 percent to 5,099, according to William Raveis Real Estate, Mortgage & Insurance. It is based in Shelton, Conn., but also does business in Massachusetts.

Even though more people are signaling they are ready to buy a condominium in Boston, real estate agents say they struggle to find enough units to show. Only 531 properties were available in the downtown area on the last day of June, about half the number up for sale on that day in 2011, LINK reported.

Eddy Foley, 45, said he has spent six months looking for a South End condominium priced in the $500,000 range. He found one he wanted, but lost out when someone else bid $34,000 over the asking price.

“It’s torture out there,” Foley said. “There’s really nothing available.”

Carmela Laurella, president of the Boston-based real estate company CL Waterfront Properties LLC, said condominiums priced reasonably are selling quickly.

Indeed, sales on the Boston waterfront jumped by 72.7 percent in the second quarter, compared with the second quarter of 2011. The median price for a waterfront condominium increased by 21.2 percent, to $827,000, LINK found.

“We have more demand than we have property to sell,’’ Laurella said. “We can barely list anything without it going under [a purchase agreement] within a couple of weeks.”

John Ranco, a senior sales associate with Hammond Residential Real Estate in the South End, said times have changed so drastically that real estate agents are now searching to locate interested sellers rather than wary buyers.

“The supply side is really hurting,” Ranco said. “There is a tremendous amount of pent-up demand.”

Jenifer B. McKim can be reached at [email protected]


We All Knew It – Home Sales Are Back

The comeback in home sales that many of us have been seeing hints of is now backed up with solid numbers. All reports are showing sales increases as well as declining inventory levels. Second quarter sales reports will show terrific numbers especially in downtown Boston neighborhoods. Sales of single-family homes in Massachusetts have bounced back to levels not seen since the Great Recession sent an already declining market into a tailspin. The Massachusetts Association of Realtors reported this week that May home sales were up more than 27 percent over the same month last year, while  The Warren Group pegs the jump at 35 percent.

The best news is that after hints of recovery for months, and most importantly our experience on the streets, the long-suffering real estate market finally appears to be living up to expectations and is finally in a recovery and coming out of the the deep trough it plunged into after the near global economic collapse of September 2008.

The 4,445 homes sold in May surpassed both May 2007 and May 2006 as well, when 3,884 and 4,200 homes were sold, respectively, in those months, according to a comparison of numbers from past monthly reports on the MAR website.

Look for articles and reports touting these terrific results and for the resulting positive effect on buyer and seller confidence.


Boston South End Price Per Square Foot – Consistent

We all love price per square foot charts.  I think its because it is such an easy measurement to use to quickly determine a “baseline” value for a property. When analyzing property value in Boston most of us go to price per square foot (ppsf) first. In Provincetown price per square foot is not nearly as important in property valuation other than to compare and contrast property values with those in downtown Boston. Here in Provincetown the wide swings in valuation are caused by the huge variety of inventory including… Waterfront, East End, West End, renovated, “charming”, new construction, or weathered antique. The value of Cape Cod charm varies widely, but on average the price per square foot of condos sold is in the high $400’s to high $500’s. More on this in a later post.

Back to the chart. This South End ppsf chart shows a consistency over the last four years which is both surprising and reassuring.  This is evidence that the South End market is relatively consistent and stable relative to other markets both locally and nationally.

Below are examples of two South End sold properties and one on Beacon Hill showing price per square foot.


Left t right: 470 Massachusetts Ave , in the South End, a 3 bedroom 3 bathroom Penthouse, 1,574 square feet, sold for $849K, $539 per square foot. Marketed by John O,Conner of Keller Williams and sold by Mike O’Hagan of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage.

40 Dwight St, in the South End, a 715 square feet parlor 1 bedroom, sold for $429, $715 per square foot. Marketed by Linda Ciborowski, Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage.

10 Bowdoin St #202,  on Beacon Hill, a 706 square foot 1 bedroom, sold for $525K, $706 per square foot. Marketed by Paul Whaley of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage.


In the last 4 years the lowest average quarterly ppsf of condos sold in the South End was $530 and the highest average per quarter was $629, a moderate swing of only 16%… and in the current quarter the average price per square foot of sold condos in the South End s $618 a strong number just off the 4 year high.

This is great news for buyers and sellers. The solid ppsf anchors the South End market near the high, and hopefully will prompt sellers to sell and buyers to see the potential investment potential and quality of life available to them in the South End.

Thanks to Joe Wolvek of Sothebys and his web site BostonRealtyWeb  for this chart. Joe used to work in my office in Boston and I always look forward to his analysis.

Average $ per square Foot Quarterly  Boston South End from LINK. 

Closed 1st quarter as of 3/31/2012: $618/SF
Closed so far 2nd quarter as of 5/19/2012: $602/SF
Top $/SF for 2011:   $1265/sf Atelier 505 #1001. 2529 SF 3 bed 2.5 ba for $3.2m

South End Boston real estate market average $ per square foot quarterly

style trends

Mix Metal and Wood Species To Create Soul

Michael Ferzoco is the principle of Eleven interiors and a contributor to my blog. The post below is a wonderful take on mixing different design elements to create soul.

I was recently asked by a client why I’m not proposing to use the same materials throughout a project.  “Ugh… not again”, I thought.  This question rears its ugly head more often than I care to admit.  As is the case with many people, this client was afraid of mixing different wood grains and finishes on furniture, floors, built-ins etc. in any one room.  I’ve had people question the use of different metal finishes on faucets and light fixtures.  Many people believe that the finishes should be the same… that they should “match”.  I hear things like, “But that doesn’t really match what we’re doing in the other bathroom” or “the wood on the coffee table doesn’t match the wood on the side table” or, my favorite “shouldn’t the bedside tables match?” My answer is always the same…. we never match anything. The magic is in how we mix materials and finishes together to create a space that has soul.

Yes, it’s okay to have zebra wood bedside tables next to a dark walnut headboard and platform bed all of which sits opposite a built-in cabinet that’s has a grey-wash-on-rift cut oak.  Go right ahead and place a vintage chrome finished cocktail table with a glass top in the middle of your living room… the same room that has antique brass sconces on the wall and gun metal black hand-forged hardware on a credenza with a raw steel base.  Of course it’s acceptable – very chic, actually – to use polished nickel faucets with bronze finish towel bars along with patina lighting fixtures in the bathroom.


Every room in your home should have a mix of various woods, various metals, glass, stone…. in some manner of combination… not that you have to use all of these elements in one space!  Choose which elements are appropriate for which space and then branch out within that element and employ it in different ways.  If you don’t take the risk of mixing the elements and the finishes, then you risk looking like you have no more insight to interior style than someone who purchases the 8 piece living room set (the phrase makes me cringe) at Bob’s Furniture.  Trust me, I’m not wrong about this….

And when creating a successful space, it’s important to remember that you can continue to add pieces as long as you continue to edit along the way.  The space will feel harmonious when the mix of furniture and accessories, in all their various finishes, are cohesively working together to create a thoughtfully orchestrated room with soul.  It takes time and effort.  It can be a bit of trial and error.  But the results are well worth it.


T’was the Week Before Christmas And All Through The Real Estate Office…

What a week last week was in the Boston South End office of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage. Agents were uncharacteristically busy for the week before Christmas. Showing levels increased on many properties that have languished on the market for months. Six under agreements came in in the last 3 days. It’s as if folks realized the year is about to end, and oooops! Realized they forgot to buy a condo!

A number of agents were rushing past my office frantically scheduling multiple last-minute showings on their properties. “You want to see the property at 6PM Friday evening, the night before Christmas Eve? Of course we can schedule that!” I heard negotiations between buyers who had walked away from negotiations a week ago and sellers who were willing to revive those negotiations, finally come to an agreement. We have had several closings that had been postponed finally close and others will close this coming week.

What does this year end flurry of activity mean? It might be simply that the weather outside was 50 and sunny. It might be some year-end pent up demand or it could be just the natural urgency in negotiations that typically occur at the end of every year. Whatever it is, it is welcome. Year-end sales figures will ultimately give us the answers.

As the year winds down conversations around the office and in our last business meeting invariably end up being about what business will look like in 2012? Interestingly, with all the challenges we have faced in 2011 – from financing problems, to a shortage of inventory, to tough negotiations – agents are very positive and upbeat going into the New Year. I think that for agents who have learned to work successfully through the challenges in this “new real estate normal,” they have come out the other side with a renewed confidence in their ability to succeed and with a more positive attitude for the year ahead. This is surely a good sign for all of us for 2012.

Have a wonderful holiday week.