Boston Condo Market Insights: Is Now a Good Time to Buy?

Empty nesters, soon-to-be empty nesters and first-time home buyers, if you’re curious about the Boston real estate market and wondering if it’s a good time to buy a condo in Boston, whether for a primary home or pied-á-terre, read further.

Since 2009 when the financial crisis hit hard and average and median prices hit their lowest point since 2004, the downtown Boston condominium price trend line has edged upwards. In fact, the downtown Boston residential condo real estate market is very strong now. Four key data points—transactions, dollar sales, average sale price and median sale price—not only show solid increases, but also represent record highs. Take a look at the data below.

Downtown Boston Condominium Sales YTD 2013 vs YTD 2012

   YTD 2013    YTD 2012   % CHANGE 
 Transactions  3,484   4,238 +7.6%
 Dollar Sales  $2,596,487,481  $2,167,819,020  +19.8%
 Average Sale Price $745,250 $664,286 +11.3%
 Median Sale Price $545,000 $495,000 +10.1%

                                                   Source : MLS, 11.29.13  

A deeper look into the details behind these numbers shows that the transaction growth is coming from Boston condos in the $500,000 to $999,999 segment that now represents 42% of the market share and the $1 million-plus segment, which represents 17% market share. Both of these segments have reached record highs in the absolute and on a share of market basis. The under $500,000 segment, although still large (41%), has dropped significantly, reflecting upward pressure on pricing in the market overall.

Focusing in on the data points for high-end condo sales, the trends are even more dramatic. In fact, you might find the numbers surprising.

Downtown Boston Condominium Sales

High End Data Points & Highest Yield Segments

 YTD 2013  YTD 2012  YTD 2008  YTD 2007
 $1,000+/sf  203 125 168 76
 $1,500+/sf 33 12 37 4
 $1Mil+ 523 417 418 387
 $2Mil+ 137 90 149 89
 $3Mil+ 54 38 81 35
 Total 917 670 816 578

                                                     Source: MLS, 11.29.13      

Sales at $1,000 plus per square foot are up 62% year-to-date versus a year ago, and up roughly 21% versus the same period in 2008, which takes into account closings at the luxury condominium projects, the Mandarin and Battery Wharf.

So what do prices points in excess of  $1,000 per square foot buy you today versus 2008? Below is a snapshot of some recent examples. I would be happy to provide more details of these and other properties for a more complete picture, or a custom market analysis, upon request.

Boston condos sold for $1,000–$1,499 per square foot in the past six months: 

Source: Flickr.com
  • 427 sf studio with one full bath without parking sold at the Boston W for $1,242/sf
  • 711 sf one-bedroom, one full bath sold at The Clarendon for $1,217/sf
  • 1,574 sf two-bedroom, two bath with one valet garage parking space at the full-service Battery Wharf sold for $1,080/sf
  • 1,311 sf two-plus bedroom, two full bath with one parking space on Marlborough Street in Back Bay sold for $1,007/sf
  • 1,962 sf three-bedroom, three full bath with one parking space sold on Marlborough Street in Back Bay for $1,287/sf
  • 1,743 sf three- bedroom, three bath with one valet parking space sold at the new Millennium Place for $1,004/sf
  • 1,680 sf two-bedroom plus study, 2.5 bath with two garage parking spaces at Atelier in the South End sold for $1295/sf
  • 1,868 sf, two-bedroom, 2.5 bath with two parking spaces (one garage and one outdoor) on Beacon Street in Back Bay sold for $1,304/sf
  • 3,230 sf, three-bedroom, three full and two half bath with two garage parking spaces on the flat of the Beacon Hill sold for $1,184/sf

Boston condos sold for over $1,500 per square foot in the past six months:

Source: 45province.com
  • 1,514 sf two-bedroom, 2.5 bath with one valet garage parking space at The Clarendon sold for $1,552/sf.
  • 1,597 sf two-bedroom, 2.5 bath with two valet garage parking spaces at The Ritz sold for $1,875/sf
  • 2,486 sf two-bedroom, 2.5 bath with two garage parking spaces at The Mandarin in Back Bay sold for $1,770/sf
  • 2,577 sf two-bedroom, 2.5 bath with two parking spaces on the first block of Comm Ave in Back Bay sold for $2,236/sf
  • 3,545 sf three-bedroom, 3.5 bath with two valet garage parking spaces at The Clarendon sold for $1,755/sf
  • 2,628 sf three-bedroom, three bath with two parking spaces at 45 Province in Midtown sold for $1,560/sf
  • 3,319 sf three-bedroom, 3.5 bath with two valet garage parking spaces on first block of Arlington Street sold for $1,657/sf
  • 3,917 sf four-bedroom, three full and two half bathrooms with two valet garage parking spaces at The Carlton House sold for $1,596/sf.

Given the strong market, high demand and limited inventory—with minimal new construction planned or approved to come on the market until 2015—many prospective buyers ask me whether to buy now or wait. Market indicators signal that upward price pressure on high-end condos will continue, meaning that you’re likely to pay more for the same property next year.  Similarly, Boston condos purchased in today’s market are destined to appreciate in value. So, if you’re contemplating a move to Boston and are considering the tremendous benefits of the city lifestyle, please contact me for additional marketplace insights or to get started on the process.