Is an End in Sight to South End’s Inventory Shortage?

We’ve come a long way since the 1980s, when the South End was considered remote and unsafe. Real estate was cheap in the neighborhood back then. But as local artists and other early adopters began taking advantage of the area’s low housing prices, the South End gentrified quickly.

Today, this Boston Landmark District—with tree-lined streets and red-brick townhouses dating back to the 1800s—has become a trendy draw for upscale professionals and diverse young families alike. It’s easy to see why. The location is ideal, just minutes away from both downtown and Back Bay. The South End is also home to some of the best restaurants, boutiques, and retail stores in the city, as well as nearly 30 parks.

South End James Hayes Park

Ready to move in? Not so fast. While the South End has become one of Boston’s most popular neighborhoods, it’s also now among its most expensive and exclusive. In fact, it can be very difficult to buy into the South End due to a severe inventory shortage.

“Across the city since around February 2012—when the market started to change from a market where no one wanted to buy, to a market that had a lot of pent up demand—buyers who had put off buying because of the economy entered the market,” explained David Bates, an agent with William Raveis, in an exclusive interview. “There is additional demand coming from Millennials, empty nesters, and people relocating.”

Slim Pickings

In a recent interview with Real Estate Talk Boston, John Neale, an agent with Sprogis & Neale Real Estate, described inventory as “still the number-one problem for buyers looking in the South End.” Neale noted that at the time of his interview in August, there were only around 50 condominiums for sale in the entire South End, and less than 5 townhouses.

Bates, who has 18 years of experience in Boston’s real estate market, reported that these numbers have dropped dramatically over the past few years. He wrote about this South End trend back in March 2013. In 2011, 144 South End condos were on the market at the end of August—almost triple the number available during the same month in 2013 and 2014.

Duking It Out

With numbers like these, bidding wars have surprisingly become the norm, with properties selling for well over the (already steep) asking prices. Bates noted that more than half of the South End condos that sold in the first seven months of 2014 sold for more than their list price.

“More than one-third of total South End condo sales (101 sales) went at least $20K over ask, 44 went at least $50K over ask, and 11 South End sales sold at least $100K over ask,” said Bates. “Stuff like that just makes me say, ‘Wow!’” Bates added that some properties have gone even higher. This year, unit #3 at 79 Chandler Street sold for a jaw-dropping $240,000 over the asking price.

Few Starts, Little Construction

Can new construction turn this situation around soon for prospective home buyers in the South End? So far, it’s not looking likely. Housing starts have been next to nil in the South End during 2014, with new construction “pinched” off, according to Neale. Very few townhouses are under renovation in the South End, and the new buildings under construction are selling the majority of their units at record-breaking prices between $1,000 and $1,150 a square foot.

“There is some new construction, but not nearly enough to put an end to the bidding wars in the foreseeable future,” said Bates. He added that the 83-unit Sepia in the Ink Block—the most well-known new condo building—is based in an emerging South End location, not in an established location like the streets near Back Bay. Even so, Neale noted that the building is already over 60 percent sold more than a year before its delivery date.

South End Boston Warren Avenue

Looking Back and Ahead

What’s behind the inventory shortage, and is there any end in sight? “No one I know has explained the lack of inventory, but my personal theory is that people don’t want to give up the wicked low interest rates they locked into when the economy was tough,” said Bates.

Bates predicts that as a result of the South End’s many attractive amenities and lack of new construction, the current inventory shortage will likely continue for some time. “In Boston, throughout my 18 years in the business, we have always had too few condominiums and too few apartments,” said Bates. “While the new construction that we see in the area is primarily dedicated to apartments, the slated condominium construction is primarily for luxury condos and will command some record-breaking prices—which of course is no help to everyday buyers.”

Sane South End Solution

One solution for everyday buyers is temporary furnished housing, which can provide a cost-effective way to get situated in Boston in light of these challenging circumstances. Temporary furnished rentals and corporate apartments in and around Boston can help guests familiarize themselves with the South End market while biding their time during their housing search.

Furnished Quarters is a temporary housing provider with a wide range of furnished rentals throughout Greater Boston. To learn more about how Furnished Quarters can help with your South End search, call 800-255-8117 or visit our contact page.

What $2.7 Million Buys in South End Boston

Look down at your feet.

See that one square foot that your feet are resting on, what if it cost $1,242.52 for your feet to be there.

That’s what the new owner of unit 401 at the Wilkes Passage condominiums in Boston’s South End enjoys. 3 bedrooms and 2.5 baths for $2,700,000, each one of the 2,173 square feet running $1,242.52 a piece.

1313 Washington Street Unit 401 Boston, MA 02118, which most recently sold on August 6, 2014 after being on the market for just 22 days, also has the distinction of being the most expansive condo to sell in the South End during the summer of 2014.

South End Boston Million Dollar Condos

Property Description: Spectacular loft at Wilkes Passage, a full-service elevator building, has three exposures with sweeping views of Peter’s Park, the city skyline & neighborhood rooftops.The open living/dining area steps out to a dramatic 900 sq.ft. private landscaped terrace.With views on three sides, the living room has a Spark gas fireplace & custom window seat w/ storage. The sleek chef’s kitchen w/ caesarstone countertops, dual ovens & dishwashers blends nicely into the living space with a long wall of custom cabinetry.Two large bedrooms have en-suite baths, walk-in closets & charming views.The den/library with custom floor-to-ceiling bookshelves and barn door opening leads to a great home office. Wonderful large wall of built-in storage closets & drawers in entry hall. 24 hr concierge, garage parking for two cars, irrigation system. Recently featured in Design New England. Google “A Novel Move Design New England”. This dramatic space must be seen in person.

Wilkes Passage, a contemporary South End condo development constructed in 2002 boasts a number of high end amenities from an onsite concierge to multi-level underground garage parking.

While Realtor Laura Spence served as the listing agent for this moat recent sale of unit 401 at Wilkes Passage, Realtor Lucas Garofalo represented the buyer and took home a 2.5% buyer’s agent commission according to MLS data, or $67,500.

The $1,340 monthly HOA fee for unit 401 includes heat, hot water, gas, water, sewer, master insurance, and elevator. The monthly condo fee includes a $140 garage parking fee (the sale of unit 401 was accompanied by two garage parking spaces in the Wilkes Passage parking garage).

Over the past six months, there have been five other condos that sold at Wilkes Passage. The average days on market for these units was 43 days – so unit 401 sold nearly twice as fast as the building’s average, somewhat surprising given that unit 401 was nearly two times the price of the next most expensive sale in the building. The average price per square foot of sold units at Wilkes Passage was $830, so the new owner of unit 401 paid a hefty premium above the market trend at Wilkes Passage – more than likely, to capture the triple exposure condo and the 900 square foot private roof deck, both of which are hard to come by in the South End, however, was it worth a 50% premium? The new owner apparently thought so.

South End Boston Roof Deck

South End Boston Luxury Bathroom

Ink Block Brightens Harrison Avenue in South End

Harrison Avenue in Boston is getting a new look.  The SoWa area of the South End is buzzing in anticipation of the Ink Block luxury condominiums located at 32 Travelers Street.  Where’s the “ink” in Ink Block come from?  The Ink Block will replace the well-known Boston Herald building hence the name.

The Ink Block is built upon approximately 6 acres and will be a mixed use space consisting of Ink 1, Ink 2, Ink 3 and Sepia condominiums.  Ink 1, 2, and 3 will be rental units and Sepia will be an 83 unit condominium complex.

The Ink Block will be sure to impress, currently available are studios, 1, 2 and 3 bedroom luxury condominiums.  Many of the units include balconies or terraces. The units will range from $459,000 to over $2 million.  Ink Block Sepia residences will have access to a common rooftop deck as well as the rooftop pool located on Ink 2.

South End Ink Block Condos

Boston SoWa Ink Block Condo Amenities

The City of Boston is improving the area around the 8-story building including wider sidewalks, bike lanes, improved lighting, retail shopping and restaurants.   The Ink Block will include a flagship Whole Foods market overlooking Harrison Avenue in which residents of Ink Block Sepia will have their own entrance into the market.  Living at the Ink Block will put you a short walking distance away from downtown, and moments from some of Boston’s finest restaurants, along with easy access to Interstate 93.

Close proximity to chic restaurants, grocery stores, and access to downtown Boston are important, but building amenities are a draw too.  Ink Block will not disappoint buyers offering floor to ceiling windows and floor lay-outs that maximize living space.  Units will be outfitted with Jenn-air and Bosch appliances with the option to upgrade to DeWolfe.     Amenities include 24/7-concierge service, enclosed underground parking, fitness center, electric car charging stations and a dog washing station to name a few.

This exciting luxury condominium development has currently sold 30% of its units and it is expected to be complete and ready for occupancy in fall 2015.   Now, is a good time to pick your unit in the building it is likely the 3 bedroom units will be sold out soon, inventory on this floor plan is limited.

Boston Ink Block Condos - Sepia

South End Boston Entry Only MLS Listings

2013 continues to see a rejuvenation of the real estate market, and Boston’s South End has seen condos sell for record prices and move off the market and under agreement quickly. One of the South End’s most recent condos to go under agreement is a duplex listed for sale by owner using an entry only MLS listing.

The owner of 85 Dartmouth Street #1 Boston, MA 02116 listed their South End duplex for $970,000 ($669 per square foot) using a flat fee Boston entry only MLS listing from Entry Only New England. Why are condo owners in Boston trying to list and sell their own home using the MLS instead of paying a listing broker who charges a full commission?

“Our all digital platform allows Massachusetts property owners to quickly and easily list their property for sale or rent in the official Massachusetts MLS system, which is syndicated to thousands of websites and buyers, for a one-time flat fee. We allow a FSBO to eliminate the listing broker commission when selling their own home, which can translate into literally thousands of dollars in savings on real estate agent commissions,” says Dean Charles, spokesperson for Entry Only New England.

85 Dartmouth Street #1 went under agreement in just nine (9) days, and if the FSBO seller gets their list price, they’ll save nearly $24,000 in real estate agent commission.

Boston Entry Only MLS Listing - 85 Dartmouth Street #1 in the South End of Boston

Boston Entry Only MLS

Entry only MLS listings across Massachusetts are at record levels.  2013 stands to be a banner year for the popularity of flat fee MLS listings, and the Massachusetts real estate market, as well as that of Boston, seem poised for additional growth in FSBOs selling their own homes without a Realtor.

The number of Boston entry only MLS listings is on the rise.  While it does not look like the number of sold listings in 2013 will outweigh records seen in 2010, the Boston market specifically is poised to see year on year growth in flat fee MLS listings being sold across all property types, including single family homes, condominiums, multi family, and residential rentals.

83 West Brookline South End Condos

If you’re in the market for a 2 bedroom home in Boston’s South End, take a moment to look at the development at 83 West Brookline, a gut rehab with all of the bells and whistles. The building is in close proximity to Blackstone Park and all of the great shopping and dining that come with living in the South End. The condos themselves are beautiful. They boast hardwood flooring throughout, skylights, recessed lighting, central A/C, in unit washer and dryer, intercom, solid wood custom kitchen cabinets, high-end stainless steel appliances (Kitchen Aid, Bosh, and LG), gas cooking, granite counter tops, and fabulous views of the Boston skyline (from the penthouse unit).

South End Condo One Bedroom

83 West Brookline Condo Development Market Update

While Unit 2 at 83 West Brookline is currently under agreement and no longer on the market, two (2) condos do remain for sale at this South End property. The 2 bedroom 1.5 bath penthouse and the 2 bedroom 1.5 bath parlor level duplex are still available and priced aggressively. The duplex has undergone an $80,000.00 price reduction. After coming to market with a list price of $695,000, the condo is currently being offered at $615,000. In terms of price per square foot, this unit is $541.85/square foot. The penthouse has also undergone a price drop; from $765,000 to $699,000 ($583.96/square foot). With both units dipping below the $600/square foot threshold, it is anticipated that these units will come under agreement rather quickly.

New South End Condo Development

I’ve had the opportunity to tour 83 West Brookline Street in the South End several times now, and long story short, the condos in one of the South End’s latest rowhouse renovation projects are coming together very nicely.  A photo tour of several of the units can be found below.  The developer will take these condos to market in approximately two weeks.

The penthouse kitchen at 83 West Brookline Street features granite counter tops, lots of natural light, stainless steel appliances and gorgeous white cabinets that complete the space.

83 West Brookline Street Penthouse Kitchen

The view from the living room of the South End penthouse unit boasts the iconic Prudential Center tower.

83 West Brookline Street Penthouse View

3 of 6 skylights in the cathedral ceiling flood the penthouse unit with natural light.

83 West Brookline Street Natural Light

The bathroom finishes at 83 West Brookline Street include subway tiles, wood framed mirrors, and trendy vanities.

83 West Brookline Street Bathroom

A view of the kitchen in the 1 bedroom unit at 83 West Brookline, complete with a washer/dryer combination unit – a must have in the South End.

South End Condo One Bedroom

The garden and parlor level duplex, which is a 2 bedroom 2 bathroom condo, features a bright and open kitchen complete with prep island.

83 West Brookline Street South End Duplex

South End Condos at 83 West Brookline Street

In the heart of the South End, Ideally located between the bustling restaurants and shops of Tremont and the parks of Franklin and Blackstone Squares is 83 West Brookline Street.  Consisting of 3 condominiums, 83 West Brookline is the latest offering from local developer AJM Group, Inc.  While currently under construction, I did have the opportunity to tour the project recently and I was pleasantly surprised. The floor plans are well thought out, the finishes are rather tasteful, and the craftsmanship was truly top notch.

The first of the 3 units is a 1,135 square foot duplex spanning the parlor and garden levels of the building. 2 Bedrooms and 1.5 baths, the condo has crown molding, in unit washer/dryer, and oak floors throughout, as does each of AJM Group, Inc.’s offerings at 83 West Brookline.  Located on the second floor is a rather charming 1 bedroom, 1 bath unit consisting of 557 square feet. An ideal starter home for a young professional, the condo boasts the same finishes as its larger counterparts.  The penthouse duplex; however, steals the show. With views of the Pru and Boston’s Financial District, this 2 bed, 1.5 bath 1,197 square foot duplex is gorgeous. It would make an ideal home for a young couple or a pair of empty nesters.

South End's Newest Condos – six9one Residences

After a decade of delays and changing hands several times, the parcel at 691 Massachusetts Avenue is finally going to be developed. The first of the pre-construction condos, 10 in total, have hit the market and are ready for buyers to line up. The project is still in the early stages of construction and currently there is no model unit available. However, it should not be too long until buyers are able to walk through the property as occupancy is expected sometime during the summer of 2011.

This parcel has gone though many variations of planning stages and the site that was once an active parking lot is now going to be one of the newest condo buildings in the South End; let’s examine the history. During the 70’s-90’s this parcel was all but forgotten about and as urban decay set in it became just another neglected piece of property in the gritty South End. Then about 10 years ago, the land was put up for sale and subsequently purchased by a group of developers looking to build 4 or 5 more row houses in a continuation of the surrounding buildings along Mass Ave. After the purchase, the developers had plans drawn up and went through the city’s tenuous approval process and spent several years getting their project green lighted. After completing this process in 2002, the developers decided to sell the project with plans and permits in hand to Urbanica development, the same developers that completed the 24 unit luxury condo project known as D4 the former division 4 police station in the South End. Urbanica, however decided that the time was not right in 2002 and that the approved design was too bland. For the project to be a success, construction would have to wait until a radically different project could be drawn up and then approved. A new concept nearly doubled the number of units to a total of 40 and the design changed from a bow front brick façade building that would seamlessly blend into the neighborhood to a modern green building with a glass and masonry façade that will significantly stand out against the back drop of brick row houses.

The revised project is now being branded as “six9one residences” , consists of 40 total units with a mix of studios, one bedrooms, two bedrooms and penthouses. Pricing varies, drastically across the inventory, and of the 10 units on the market, 8 are one bedrooms with an average size of 675 square feet and an average price of $385,000 or $570 square foot. The penthouses top out at $975,000 for nearly 2,000 square feet. All of the pre-construction units include deeded parking with the option to purchase an additional space. The condo fees are a bit higher than those of the surrounding condos in a typical brownstone, but the fees at six9one residences include heat, hot water, gas, a/c, elevator maintenance and security, all items that are rarely included in the budget of a brownstone.

With the surrounding condo market in a bit of limbo, it will be interesting to see how this aggressive pricing plays out. Are buyers willing to pay top dollar for brand new trendy units on Mass Ave? Will these units sell before completion or will buyers demand a finished product before jumping in?

South End Listing Prices Adjusted…Up

In the face of a luxury condo auction less than four blocks away (see Bryant Back Bay to Auction 10 Luxury Condos), listing prices at the Atelier 505 building, the South End’s first large-scale luxury condo development, are actually being adjusted up, rather than down.

Unit 307 at Atelier 505 was listed for sale on September 8, 2009 for $1,750,000, and 20 days later, a price adjustment of $45,000 has taken place.  The interesting note is that the price adjustment is up, not down, and the condo is now listed at $1,795,000.  The condo boasts 1,810 square feet ($992 per square foot), 2+ bedrooms 2.5 bathrooms, floor to ceiling windows, and 2 deeded garage parking spaces in the onsite underground garage.

Atelier 505 - Unit 307

In the past six months (according to MLSPin, one of Boston’s two MLS systems), of the 296 units that sold in the South End, there have been 17 condos that have sold for prices higher than the original listing price.  Condos such as unit 317 at Wilkes Passage sold for $31,000 over its original asking price on August 28, 2009, or unit 3 at 116 W Concord Street sold for $10,000 above the original asking price on September 24, 2009.  This adds to the 13 units that sold for full original listing price during that same time period.  There are, nonetheless, instances that go in the opposite direction, including 437 Columbus Avenue unit 4, which labored on the market for 262 days and closed $89,000 below its original asking price.  Clearly, being priced “right” out of the gate is a clear predictor in a unit moving quickly and at or above its original asking price, as the units that sold for at or above original listing prices over the past six months had an average days on market of 21, compared with an average of 76 for those that sold for anything less than full asking price.

Perhaps part of the allure to an auction format that South End / Back Bay residents will soon see when the Bryant condos are auctioned on October 17th is that the units will inherently be priced “right”, not arbitrarily, but by the uninhibited economic forces of the market.

First Resale Flip at 1850 Lofts

With talk of the Nouvelle at Natick condo auction scheduled for October 4, 2009, the 1850 lofts auction that took place in late June 2009 almost seems like it is in the distant past (see Buyers Prepare for 1850 Condo Auction). It was June 28, 2009 when the 1850, a South End loft-style condo development, went to auction selling out the remaining 35 units in the building, and it was in August that units in the building actually closed.

On August 7, 2009, unit 511, a 780 square foot loft closed at a purchase price of $325,000.  Unit 511 was one of the 35 units sold at the 1850 auction, with a price per square foot of $417, well below the average price per square foot sales price of $582 in the South End during 2009.  Fast forward just over one month, and unit 511 is now listed as a resale in the 1850, and represents the first flip in the building, pre or post auction.

Coupled with the presence of a deeded onsite parking space, sold at a flat $35,000 each during the auction, unit 511 represents a quick flip of an auction property without the large profit expectations some flippers had following the last downtown Boston condo auction at the Broadluxe (see Flip That Condo at Broadluxe).