Thursday, November 26, 2009

Boomtime Or Bust, Lack Of Decent, Well-Priced Homes Still A Problem

Welcome to the Boston area, where you will find a wonderful selection of overpriced homes in need of work.

That might be a good way of summing our market to a newbie perplexed at the idea that you can shell out a small fortune and walk away with a fixer-upper that could have cost a fraction of the price in most other markets.

I love living in the Boston area. But when it comes to homes in the broad middle of the market, the selection stinks.

Now that is not based on any scientific survey, though there are hard numbers to back up the idea that inventory levels, as a whole, are dropping and have been a problem for years now.

But when it comes to the quality of what’s being offered up for sale, here I am relyaing on observation and a steady stream of comments from frustrated buyers over the past year I have been writing this blog.

Buyers hunting for homes in the $300,000 to say $800,000 range within Interstate 495 have their work cut out for them. The common complaint is that there are simply too many overpriced homes, the owners holding out for top dollar on colonials last updated in 1965.
Just take the recent note from yet another frustrated buyer, who, after months of searching, has landed a colonial in Arlington. “We looked at Arlington, Belmont, Watertown, and Cambridge, and peeked at Newton and Lexington. We were able to pay a healthy price, but we were dismayed by the poor condition and quality of what we saw. I have no way of knowing if things were overpriced, but the vast majority would have required $50K or more to redo.’’

One key part of the problem is that not enough single family housing gets built in the greater Boston market.

We are a national laggard when it comes to housing production, with boomtimes producing a mix of McMansions and cookie cutter condos.

Also buyers start to edge back into the market, they are pawing over the same stock of older homes that too often are in need of major work. The number of unsold homes in the greater Boston market has plunged roughly 20 percen over the past year, to 13,886, according to Norwell-based HouseSavvy. That’s just 4.7 months of supply – and we are in the early stages of a potential rebound here.

Boston Globe November 19, 2009

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