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Buyers Brave Snow Banks

Buyers Brave Snow Banks and Cold to Find a Home in Greater Boston

Buyers are braving snowy streets and clambering up slippery steps to look at the relative handful of homes on the market right now, brokers say.
Buyers are braving snowy streets and clambering up slippery steps to look at the relative handful of homes on the market right now, brokers say.



The Alaskan-style winter that has swallowed Greater Boston threatens to deep freeze spring home sales as well.

Droves of buyers are braving snowy streets and clambering up slippery steps to look at the relative handful of homes on the market right now, brokers say.

But sellers who have been gearing up, in some cases for months, to put their homes on the market in March, are now looking to April or even May, according to listing agents.

The one upside is that when the spring market finally takes off, it is expected to sizzle, with frenetic sales activity extending well into the summer – a time when the market typically takes a breather.

“It’s going to go crazy,” said Deborah Heffernan, broker and co-owner of Avenue 3 Real Estate in Arlington, of the projected warmer months. “I have had a number of people who have held back listing their homes because it is physically too challenging. They are dealing with ice dams and you can’t even see outside the property.”

Massachusetts sales dropped 2 percent in January after rising through the fall and holiday season, with a 10 percent jump in sales in December amid a chilly but snow-free month, according to The Warren Group, publisher of Banker & Tradesman.

The onset of heavy snow and arctic cold was a key factor, and one that will likely result in another drop in sales for February when those numbers are released in late March.

Buyers have proved to be especially hardy this winter. The few open houses that haven’t been canceled due to epic storms of the last few months regularly have attracted crowds, brokers say.

Redfin’s Nancy McLaughin, listing specialist for the western suburbs, said she was stunned to see an overflow crowd show up at an open house she was putting on in Framingham on a recent snowy Sunday.

“We had 30 people in 90 minutes,” she recalled. “They were traipsing through the snow with the most determined looks on their faces.”

Some sellers are also showing similar grit amid an unrelenting winter that has already broken local records for snowfall.

Hans Brings, an agent at Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, said he is working with sellers in Waltham who were so determined to push forward with their open house that they decided to take municipal snow clearance into their own hands.

The couple, after digging out their driveway, went to work shoveling out the entire street, trying to widen it enough for buyers to drive down without getting stuck, according to Brings.

Streets effectively turned into one-lane roads by towering snow banks on both sides have been a major problem for buyers trying to get out and see homes, Brings noted.

But many other sellers are deciding to put off listing their homes until the snow melts.

McLaughlin said she has had to push out one listing into April as the sellers scramble to deal with water damage caused by ice dams on the roof.

The same thing is happening in Boston as well, said Neda Vander Stoep, an agent in the Back Bay office of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage.

“Many sellers are holding off on listing their properties with the hopes that it will be easier for all to navigate the city as the temps hopefully begin to rise,” she wrote in an email.

In Arlington, Heffernan said she has had clients who were ready to put their homes on the market on April and are now looking to May instead.

Sellers are concerned that buyers simply won’t be able to get a full feel of their homes and what they look like, she said.

One would-be seller in Boston decided to delay for similar reasons, noting buyers wouldn’t be able to see the deck out back, a potential selling point.

“You can’t see the foundations of the house let alone the flowers in the yard,” Heffernan said.


Boston Is Market To Watch In 2015

Great story from Boston Magazine


Boston Ranks as a Market to Watch in 2015

After analyzing real estate markets around the country, both Boston and Middlesex County are listed in the top 10 housing markets to watch next year.

Photo provided by Shutterstock.

Real estate search database Trulia has released their 2015 Housing Outlook report, including the top 10 housing markets to watch in 2015. After analyzing market potentials and trends throughout the country, researchers selected 10 markets with the capacity for real estate growth in the upcoming year. Factors like job growth, vacancy rate, and the amount of millennials ready to enter the work force influenced their report.

According to the report:

Our 10 markets to watch have strong fundamentals for housing activity. These include solid job growth, which fuels housing demand, and a low vacancy rate, which spurs construction. We gave a few extra points to markets with a higher share of millennials. These young adults are getting back to work and that will drive household formation and rental demand. We didn’t include markets where prices looked at least 5% overvalued in our latest Bubble Watch report.

Here are the Top 10 Housing Markets to Watch in 2015, in alphabetical order:

•  Boston, MA
•  Dallas, TX
•  Fresno, CA
•  Middlesex County, MA
•  Nashville, TN
•  New York, NY-NJ
•  Raleigh, NC
•  Salt Lake City, UT
•  San Diego, CA
•  Seattle, WA

Despite low inventory rates, over-asks, and bidding wars, the Boston market has a slue of new luxury apartments aimed at millennials, who are predicted to be one of the highest groups of home buyers this year.

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Three Boston Neighborhoods With A September To Remember


An interesting post from


Three Hub Condo Markets Have a September to Remember

Thursday, October 16, 2014, by Tom Acitelli
Here’s the latest installment of Bates By the Numbers, a weekly feature by Boston real estate agent David Bates.

up-arrow.jpgIf September was the month that you were supposed to put down the home sale and pick up the homework, then nobody told the CambridgeSomerville and South End condominium markets. In Cambridge, the number of condominiums that went under agreement in September 2014 was 53 percent greater than did so in September 2013. In the South End, September under-agreements were up 64 percent. And versus September 2013, Somerville’s under agreements were up 18 percent and the median list price of Somerville under-agreements was up an impressive 20 percent.

These significant sales gains were in sharp contrast to the weak and somewhat flat results of many other Hub condo markets. In Back Bay, 17 percent fewer condominiums went under agreement in September 2014 than in September 2013. And, in Charlestown, September under-agreements were off 29 percent compared with the year before.

What was the leading indicator of how a market fared in 2014 versus 2013? Inventory, of course. In Cambridge, 40 percent more listings came to market this September versus last. The South End listed 20 percent more condos than it did in September 2013. In contrast, the Back Bay (-23 percent) and Charlestown (-23 percent) markets had significantly fewer condominium listings come to market than they had last September.

The increase in for-sale inventory and the advantageous market conditions combined to make this the best September for Cambridge pending sales since 2007. As well, according to MLS, data it was the best South End September for pending sales in at least as long. In Somerville, where nearly three times as many condominiums went under agreement as did in September 2011, it might have been the best ever September.

Will the uptick in pending sales continue in these key Hub markets for the rest of the year? It will depend on the amount of sale-able inventory that comes to market.
· Our Bates By the Numbers archive [Curbed Boston]

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Four Seasons – Big Prices!

WOW! Great post by Scott.

Coming Attractions: Big Apple Condo Prices

Posted by Scott Van Voorhis

Christian Science tower, rendering.jpg

Take a good look at the glimmering new condo and hotel skyscraper in this rendering.

This 58-story spire, slated to take shape next to the Christian Science Plaza in the Back Bay, is one of a trio of new towers poised to bring New York condo prices to the Hub.

The new $700 million Christian Science tower, recently approved by Boston City Hall, will feature the Four Seasons brand, with 180 super-luxury condos on the top forty floors. Construction is expected to kick off next year, with a planned 2017 opening.

The new Millennium Tower in Downtown Crossing, now under construction, will hit 56 stories.

And Don Chiofaro’s proposed new harborside tower complex would top out at 55 stories, crowned by 120 multimillion-dollar units.

There’s talk of these new skyline-topping condos fetching $4,000 or even $5,000 a square foot.

That’s double or more what the most expensive condos are selling for right now in Boston, with a penthouse at the Mandarin Oriental holding the record after fetching more than $13 million a few years ago.

Double that number and you get an idea of what the future may hold for Boston’s already crazy condo market – penthouses overlooking vast stretches of Eastern Massachusetts selling for $25 million and up.

OK, let’s not get ahead of ourselves here.

Kevin Ahearn, chief executive of Otis & Ahearn, a top Boston luxury condo marketing and brokerage firm, says we will just have to wait and see how prices shake out.

Still, these super-luxury condos atop Boston’s bejeweled skyline will be in a league of their own.

“These new towers will offer five-star living and drop dead views,” Ahearn says. “It’s alpha luxury and it will create a new category.”

The new skyscrapers biggest draw, besides sheer luxury, will be their height. While 58-story towers are no big deal by New York standards, they are a very big deal in the Hub.

The tallest condo towers in Boston currently max out after 40 or so stories. Not bad, but still shrimps by Big Apple standards.


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Boston Condo Record


Boston Condo Goes for Record

Posted by Scott Van Voorhis

Four Seasons, luxuryboston.jpg


A condo sold at the Four Seasons came close to hitting the $3,000 a square foot mark.

That’s the word from Kevin Ahearn, chief executive of one of downtown Boston’s leading luxury marketing and condo sales firm.

Unit 1201 at the Four Seasons, fetched $10.5 million back in May in a quiet deal involving only a few brokers.

The final sale price weighed in at $2,908 square feet for the four-bedroom, three-and-a-half bath penthouse.

That’s the highest amount paid to date, on a per-square-foot basis, for a Boston condo, Ahearn believes.

“Big jumps in pricing are occurring,” Ahearn said. “We don’t see any slowdown, in fact we see an acceleration.”

At 3,525 square feet, the Four Seasons condo is the size of a large suburban home, but with with upper floor views of the Back Bay and Public Garden.

Given just a few months ago all the hype in the market was about a few units that managed to break the $2,000-a-square-foot mark, Boston condo prices are clearly on a tear.

The Four Season penthouse was last sold in back in the summer of 2000 for $6.3 million – some pretty decent price appreciation there.

“It is indicative of very significant upward pressure on prices,” Ahearn said.

Well you can say that again.


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Middle Market Towns Back


Interesting post by Scott.

Middle Market Towns Hot

Posted by Scott Van Voorhis June 2, 2014

The spring market has been particularly choppy this year. Sales have stalled amid a shortage of listings that has left many buyers fuming. The up today, down tomorrow economy hasn’t help things much either.

And it has been an increasingly uneven real estate market as well. A few towns and neighborhoods are super hot, with double digit increases in sales and prices. By contrast, many other communities are seeing a falloff in either sales or prices, and, in some cases, both.

Not hot right now are a growing number of the more affluent suburbs, such as Hingham and Carlisle, which have seen both prices and sales fall off this spring.

Ditto for low income cities and urban neighborhoods, which, after starting to rebound after hitting bottom during the Great Recession, are starting to see prices deflate again.

But the middle market towns out there right now are the hot ones, posting big increases in both sales and prices this springaccording to April numbers recently posted by The Warren Group, publisher of Banker & Tradesman.

Towns seeing the biggest jumps in sales and prices this spring include:

Danvers: Median price rose 18 percent, to $377,500, while sales rose by more than 18 percent;
Dedham: Median price surged to nearly $400,000 – a 20 percent increase – while sales jumped 13 percent;
Barnstable: Median price jumped more than 35 percent, to $469,950, while sales soared nearly 41 percent;
Beverly: Sales up 42 percent while prices increased nearly 12 percent to $369,959;
Milford: Sales rose by more than 41 percent while the median price hit $270,000, an increase of more than 17 percent.
Norwood: Sales increased by more than 46 percent while the median price rose more than 9 percent, to $377,450
Wakefield: Median price jumped to nearly $420,000, or a 13 percent increase, while sales rose by nearly 10 percent;
Waltham: Median price hit $441,000, an increase of 11 percent, while sales jumped more than 17 percent.



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Upscale Towns – Falling Prices

Interesting post by Scott. The $1M+ market in Provincetown which is anchored by single family homes is performing somewhat differently with rising average sale prices but with fewer properties selling. Watch for a post this week on $1M + sales year to date.

Upscale Towns, Falling Prices

Posted by Scott Van Voorhis

After some torrid increases, home prices are taking a hit this spring in some upscale suburbs and urban neighborhoods across Greater Boston.

The elite top of the market, such as the Lincolns and the Cohassets, are doing just fine.

That is, with the exception of Cambridge, where sales of single- family homes are off 30 percent so far this year, while prices are down more than 20 percent, according to The Warren Group, publisher of Banker & Tradesman.

Rather, it’s that larger tier of affluent towns where signs of trouble are starting to pop up.

Just take Medfield. Curt Schilling recently slashed the price of his seven bedroom, 26 acre spread to $2.5 million – a cut of $500,000 – after years of on-and-off attempts to find a buyer.

But right now the one-time Red Sox star is chasing the market down, with the median home price in Medfield having fallen more than 5 percent this spring, to $545,000. (Check out an evening view of the Schilling homestead below – looks rather cozy for a 7,890 square foot manse.)


A look at the latest Warren Group numbers for April is rather revealing. Other examples include:

Hingham: The median home price has dropped more than 9 percent, to $567,500, while sales are off 21 percent.

Orleans: Sales in this mid-Cape tourist town, home to Nauset Beach, were choppy to say the least, dropping by more than 35 percent. But that’s nothing compared to the median sale price, which plunged 41 percent to $432,025.

Carlisle: The median home price fell more than 10 percent, to $590,000, while sales are off nearly 39 percent.

Amherst: While sales were up, prices fell more than 8 percent to $312,000.

Newburyport: Sales were down 15 percent, while the median price fell more than 5 percent to $465,000.

Charlestown: The median price dropped by nearly 14 percent, to $645,000, while sales were off by 16 percent.


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Cold Weather Hot Prices

Succinct post by Scott!

 Cold weather, hot prices

Posted by Scott Van Voorhis  January 24, 2014 10:26 AM

Hard to believe with the arctic temps, but the spring real estate market is just around the corner.

And if the latest price and sales numbers are any indicator, this spring is likely to see another big jump in prices, driven in large part by the long-standing shortage of listings.

Just take a look at what happened in December, usually the dead zone of the annual real estate cycle.

Instead, home prices in the Boston area jumped 3.6 percent in December from November to a median price of more than $372,000. That’s also a more than 8 percent rise as well from December, 2012, Redfin reports.

But here’s the key stat: The inventory of unsold homes dropped nearly 20 percent from November to December, a very big one-month plunge, according to Redfin.

Overall, the number of home for sale in December was down more than 30 percent compared to December 2012.


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Boston Is One Of The Healthiest Markets

I like Scott’s take on what constitutes a healthy real estate market.  A more balanced inventory picture certainly is part of it.

Greater Boston one of the “healthiest” markets?

Posted by Scott Van Voorhis

The Boston area has been anointed one of the “healthiest” real estate markets in the country by real estate website Zillow.

In fact, we weigh in at No. 6, behind only the top California markets and Denver, healthier than 75 percent of the hundreds of markets surveyed by Zillow.

And how did Zillow come to this conclusion? Apparently, we have a relatively low foreclosure rate – just one in every 10,000 was foreclosed on in October – while just 12 percent of homeowners in the Boston area are mired in the negative equity trap.

Overall, home values were up more than 9 percent in October to a median of $343,000.

I beg to differ.

Zillow’s metrics speak volumes about the health of the Greater Boston jobs market, one of the strongest in the country for some years now.

More high-paying jobs compared to other metro markets mean higher prices, less negative equity and fewer foreclosures. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that one.

But while Boston-area sellers are doing better now, this has to be one of the worst markets in the country for home buyers right now.

Listings of homes for sale are skidding along at all time lows and construction of new homes and condos remain mired in what has become a decades-long slump.

Some buyers have become desperate enough to resort to mass mailings in a hunt for potential homes to buy.

At least for buyers, the Boston area is hardly a healthy market. In fact, right now, it has to be one of the sickest housing markets in the country, if measured by buyer frustration.

So what’s your take? Is Greater Boston really one of the country’s healthiest housing markets? And frankly, what does “healthy” truly mean when we are talking real estate?


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Boston Condo Prices At Record High


Jenifer’s article today in the Globe…WOW!

Luxury units help push Boston condo prices to record

Low inventory likely to remain a factor

By Jenifer B. McKim

|  GLOBE STAFF  JULY 23, 2013

Condominium prices in Boston’s downtown market jumped to a record high in the second quarter of the year, driven by strong demand, tight inventories, and a taste for luxury, according to data to be released Tuesday.

The median price for a condo in Boston’s central neighborhoods increased to $537,950 in the three-month period that ended in June, a 5.3 percent increase from same period a year ago, according to LINK, a Boston company that tracks condo sales in a 12-neighborhood area, including the Back Bay and Beacon Hill.

That beat the previous record of $537,000 during the first quarter of 2013, according to LINK, which has been tracking local condo data since 1993.

Strong sales of luxury condos, which include services like a valet and concierge, helped push the citywide median value — the midway point between the lowest and highest sale prices — to the record. The median price of a luxury condo jumped to $1.4 million from $1.24 million in the second quarter of 2012, a more than 13 percent increase.

<br /><br /><br /><br /><br />

Sales of luxury condos increased by 2.4 percent between April and June, according to LINK.

“We are zooming right ahead,’’ said John Ranco, a senior sales associate with Hammond Residential Real Estate LLC in the South End. Ranco said buyers “are out there in force. It is just the matter of finding the right property.”

That hasn’t been easy for many house hunters. As in the broader Massachusetts real estate market, listings have shrunk as more buyers come into the market, according to LINK, which tracks condos in the Back Bay, Beacon Hill, Charlestown, the Fenway, the Leather District, Midtown, the North End, the Seaport, South Boston, the South End, the Waterfront, and the West End.

Inventory for condos in these neighborhoods dropped in June to 328 units from 531 a year ago, a 38.2 percent drop.

The shortage of properties on the market contributed to the slight decline in overall condo sales, which fell 1.2 percent from the second quarter of 2012, according to LINK.

Kevin Ahearn, president of the Boston-based residential brokerage firm, Otis & Ahearn Inc., said he expects tight inventory will keep pushing prices in the city’s downtown market for years. There are very few new listings, he said.

“We are seeing the front end of a very big move up in pricing,” he said.

Home values throughout the Boston area are on the rise. Median sales prices for condos in Greater Boston — considered roughly the region within the Interstate 495 loop — rose to a record $422,000 in June, a 5.5 percent increase from the $400,000 value during the same month last year, according to the Greater Boston Association of Realtors, which released data Monday.

Single-family homes also rose to a record $541,500 in June, a 7.8 percent increase from the same time last year, the association said.

Within the city of Boston, areas like South Boston and Charlestown — neighborhoods with relatively lower costs — have experienced some of the biggest jumps in condo values over the last several months as buyers are unable to find or afford properties in other downtown neighborhoods, said Debra Blair, president of LINK.

“It will be another three to five years before we have inventory,’’ she said. “That will keep pressure on prices going up.”

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