Thursday, August 5, 2010

LOCAL NEWS: Boston condo sales pick up

Downtown sees 30% increase

Adding to evidence that Boston’s downtown condominium market is thawing, sales surged by 30 percent in the second quarter of this year, compared with the same period in 2009, according to data released yesterday.

The number of condos sold was 849, compared with 653 between April and June the year before, according to Listing Information Network, a Boston firm that tracks real estate.

But median selling prices overall slipped by 3.6 percent, to $443,500, in the quarter.

Sales in luxury buildings — defined as those with amenities such as valet and concierge services — increased by 9 percent to 121 sales in the second quarter, compared with the 2009 quarter, according to the data. Prices in the high-end slice of the market also rose, to a median of $665,000. That was 11.8 percent above the median price during the same period last year, when the real estate market was especially grim.

John Ranco, a senior broker at Gibson Sotheby’s International Realty in Boston, said the report corresponds to what he is experiencing in his office. “We’ve seen a loosening up of the higher-end price points,’’ Ranco said. “It was a market that was totally frozen last time last year.’’

Debra Taylor Blair, president of Listing Information Network, said the new data represent the third consecutive quarter of sales growth in the downtown market, which includes the Back Bay, Beacon Hill, the South End, and South Boston. The report does not include sales for Dorchester, Mattapan, or Roxbury.

“I feel that is the magic number that says yes, we are really coming out of the slump,’’ Taylor Blair said of the three straight quarters of improving numbers. It is particularly good news for some of the area’s new luxury developments, which have been saddled with many vacant units over the past several years.

Wayne Lopez, sales and marketing director for the midtown building 45 Province, said prospective buyers are more convinced that the economy is on the upswing. In the past two months, buyers have signed contracts for six units, he said, at prices ranging from $600,000 to more than $2 million. That is significant progress for a 137-unit building that has sold about 20 percent of its condos since opening last year. “Confidence has resumed,’’ Lopez said.

At FP3, a 92-unit condo complex in Boston’s Fort Point Channel neighborhood, 15 units were sold during the first six months of this year — up from zero sales during the first six months of 2009.

Joseph Laurano, director of operations for developers Berkeley Investments, attributed the movement to a change in marketing strategy as well as improvements in the economy and continuing low interest rates. The building is now 60 percent sold. “Folks on firm financial footing view now as an opportunistic time to purchase urban real estate,’’ Laurano said.

Jenifer B. McKim Boston Globe July 20, 2010

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