Boston Homes
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First quarter condo sales in the city down from 2018

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Scott Elwell, Senior Executive Regional Manager of Westchester and New England at Douglas Elliman. “The legacy closings in the first quarter of 2018 significantly skewed the market trends year-over-year, causing record prices for the overall condo and luxury condo markets as well as heaviest sales volume for a first quarter in 13 years.”


Townhouse sales in Boston showed a heavy sales volume and a decline in listing inventory year-over-year for the second straight quarter.


According to the Douglas Elliman first quarter analysis, “Price and sales trends showed stability after considering the year-ago surge legacy contract closings.”


Jonathan Miller, of Miller Samuel Inc., the author of the Douglas Elliman report, wrote, “A year-ago, record prices and heavy sales volume were caused by an unusual surge in high-end new development legacy closings, i.e. contracts signed 2-4 years earlier that distorted current trends. Q1-2018 closings were the highest first quarter number of sales in 13 years; Average and median sales price were skewed to all-time records; average price per square foot was second highest on record.


“By the removal of three buildings with either a high volume of legacy contract closings or record pricing: 50 Liberty (49), Pierce Boston (58) and 10 Farnsworth (6) resulted in a more representative trend in comparison to the first quarter of 2019 that did not see the same surge in legacy closings.”


Miller says that the removal of three buildings with a high concentration of legacy closing resulted in a modest year-over-year price per square foot increase sales. He also reports that “negotiability tightened from year-ago levels as marketing time expanded.”


Only two of the neighborhoods covered by LINK and Boston Homes saw increases in sales during the first quarter – Charlestown and Midtown.


According to LINK, Charlestown’s sales jumped 59 percent to 65 homes sold and the median selling price climbed 9 percent to $710,000. The average selling price dipped 2 percent to $767,213. The average price per square foot was $725 – the same as it was last year at this time and the median price per square foot jumped up 2 percent to $751.


In Midtown, sales rose 40 percent to 42 sold, but the average selling price dropped 20 percent to $1,431,936 and the median fell 13 percent to $1,187,500. The median price per square foot for the quarter edged up 2 percent to $1,152, but the average per square foot went down 3 percent to $1,088.


Although the sales price and price per square foot numbers across the city are down compared to the past year at this time, they are still higher than any other point prior to 2018. In addition, 23 percent of all the condos sold in the city during the first part of 2019 went for more than the asking price, indicating that there is still high demand. That’s close to the percentage during the first quarter of 2018.


Citywide inventory started the year with 267 units as compared to a high of 383 during the fourth quarter of last year. It’s normal for the inventory to be at its lowest point at the beginning of the year due to the significance of the holidays and fluctuation of the winter weather. The quarter ended with inventory rising to 328 condos on the market, closely mirroring the end of the first three months of last year.


It was also a down quarter in the city’s luxe condo market that focuses on the luxury and ultra-luxury full-service buildings, offering concierge, valet parking, on-site fitness rooms, lounges and other up-scale lifestyle amenities. As the year opened, luxe sales were down 70 percent with 51 units sold. The average selling price, however, leapt 17 percent to $2,691,645, yet the median fell 5 percent to $1,700,000.


The median price per square foot in the Luxe category dropped 15 percent to $1,231 and the average selling price per square foot went down 4 percent to $1,453. But as Miller points out, a lot of last year’s luxe market was driven by 50 Liberty, Pierce Boston and 10 Farnsworth. That is not the case this year.


The high end market – and the Back Bay - will see a big jump when One Dalton opens later this year.


Here is the breakdown of sales per neighborhood covered by LINK and Boston Homes:


Back Bay


The Back Bay is still a neighborhood in high demand. The number of sales in the first quarter went down 12 percent to 74 units sold, but the average selling price jumped up 8 percent to $1,916,305 and the average per square foot rose 7 percent to $1,278. The median selling price slipped 13 percent to $1,200,000 and the median PSF dropped 5 percent to $1,145.


The Back Bay started the year with 49 condos on the market – that’s eight more than at the beginning of 2018. March saw the number climb to 72 units for sale as compared to just 39 a year ago.


The hottest competition in the neighborhood is for 1,001 to 1,500-square-foot homes where the numbers and prices climbed the most. Another hot category was 701 to 1,000- square-foot units where the price per square foot rose and homes only stayed on the market an average of nine days.


Beacon Hill


The number of sales on Beacon Hill fell 4 percent for the quarter to 23. The average selling price was down 41 percent to $1,378,485 and the median was down 23 percent to $850,000. Among the sales this past quarter, 11 were studios and small homes.


The number of homes on the market at the start of the year edged up from 21 to 26 in March. Demand still overweighs supply on Beacon Hill.




Charlestown also remains a popular place to live where demand outweighs supply. As discussed above, this was one of only two neighborhoods in the city with an increase in sales. Thirty-one percent of the homes changing hands were sold higher than the asking price


The number of homes on the market was 41 as compared to 30 in January 2018.


The most popular type of homes sold this quarter were two-bedroom where demand, sales and prices went up. Charlestown is the type of neighborhood that attracts people from all walks of life, including families with kids.




Last year, sales in the Fenway neighborhood were driven by the new Pierce Boston building. With limited available units to drive the market, sales in the first quarter this year sunk 74 percent to 19 condos sold. The average selling price fell 43 percent to $771,816 as compared to the first quarter of last year and the median dropped 49 percent to $585,000.


The price per square foot also saw a big drop, falling 27 percent to $984 and the median PSF sunk 31 percent to $977. Both those prices, however, are higher than they were at any point before 2018.


Inventory was way down in the first quarter. The highest number of Fenway condos on the market was three and that was at the start of the year. The quarter ended with only two units available.




As discussed earlier, Midtown saw a big jump in sales and a big drop in average and median prices. Twenty-one of the homes sold in Midtown during the quarter were one-bedroom – easily the most popular. Six studios were sold with an average stay on the market of six days. Demand was so hot, 29 percent of the homes that sold went for more than the asking price – which is well above the usual


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