Thursday, November 11, 2010

MARKET TRENDS: Condo contrasts: Prices downtown highest in decade, but sales are off

The median price of a downtown Boston condominium hit a 10-year high in the third quarter while the number of sales dropped to a new low for the decade.

That’s the conclusion of a housing report set to be released today by the Boston company Listing Information Network that shows the median selling price of downtown condominiums increased 9.2 percent to $475,000 during the third quarter of 2010 compared with the same period last year.

Sales volume, meantime, sank by 24.5 percent in the third quarter compared with the same period last year. Only 677 properties sold, marking the smallest number changing hands during the third quarter over the last 10 years, according to a decadelong survey provided by the Listing Information Network. The private company tracks condos sales in 12 Boston neighborhoods, including Beacon Hill, Back Bay, and the South End. It doesn’t include the more moderately priced areas of Allston, Brighton, Mattapan, Dorchester, and Jamaica Plain.

The juxtaposition of lethargic sales and an increase in median price is an indication that many of the properties selling are in the upper end of the market, not that home values overall are on the rise, local real estate agents say.

Indeed, median prices in the luxury condo market — defined as full-service properties with valets, concierges, and other services — swelled by 16.6 percent to $680,000 in the third quarter compared with the same time last year. At the same time, sales volume fell less dramatically than the overall market — by 14.6 percent in the third quarter — with 135 units changing owners, according to the new data.

“The higher end has picked back up, which drags the median prices a bit higher,’’ said Michael DiMella, a managing partner at Charlesgate Realty Group in the Back Bay. “Buyers are being real choosy.’’

Debra Taylor Blair, president of Listing Information Network, said that the downtown market has largely held its values because of low inventory, which increases competition among buyers. There were 1,037 homes on the market in September compared with the 1,039 during the same month in 2009.

“We are not in a situation of [having a] glut of properties,’’ said Taylor Blair. “We are still in an appreciating market.’’

John Ranco, a Boston real estate agent, said that even if the number of condos for sale has not changed much since last year, buyers are finding fewer properties that they want to purchase. Many homes have been on the market for long periods of time and are overpriced, he said.

“There isn’t a great selection,’’ said Ranco. “What is out there can be very expensive and tends to sell at a higher price than you would expect in a down economy.’’

Jenifer B. McKim Boston Globe October 29, 2010

No comments: