clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Gas vs. Oil: One's Winning the Hearths and Minds of Mass.

Here is the latest installment of Bates By the Numbers, a weekly feature by broker David Bates that drills down into the Hub's housing market to uncover those trends you would not otherwise see. This week, David breaks down trends in how we heat our homes. (Last week, he revealed the top apartment owners in several Hub neighborhoods.)

I did annual breakdowns of Greater Boston MLS single-family sales to see how many more oil-heated homes sold than gas-heated homes in the first 10 months of 2012. Check it out.

Year More Oil heated homes SOLD
2005 2,630
2006 2,289
2007 1,837
2008 1,295
2009 1,266
2010 1,029
2011 567
2012 228

After more than 36,000 Greater Boston MLS single-family sales in the first 10 months, gas and oil heating systems have almost an identical share of sales; but, at the current rate, gas will surpass oil as the most popular home heating source in Massachusetts sometime in 2013.

Why the change? Gas doesn't depend on fuel truck deliveries, which can be unhinged by New England's severe weather. Also, the U.S. is not dependent on foreign gas suppliers. However, the biggest reason for homeowners' change in preference appears clearly economic.

Take the story of Susan and Mark Samuelson, buyers who recently purchased a home heated by oil in Melrose and switched it over to gas heating before they moved. Asked why the couple took on the project, which added several thousand dollars of costs to their move, Susan—whose husband is a CPA—said they were "told the conversion will pay for itself within just a few years —oil is pricey."

Natural gas is already the preferred choice of Massachusetts home builders. Of the Massachusetts MLS-listed single-family homes built 2010 and after, and sold in the the first 10 months of 2012, gas-heated homes outsold oil-heated homes by a ratio of more than 5 to 1. Jim Calvey, a developer with 40 years experience, told me, "I always do gas." He says prospective buyers like it better when they walk through; that it's 35 percent cheaper than oil; and that it burns so efficiently that it's almost maintenance-free. In comparison, Calvey estimated that an oil burner may cost up to $200 a year to maintain.

Another benefit of natural gas is that in a real estate market that is still fluctuating, it's better to have what consumers want. Massachusetts homebuyers are apparently willing to pay more for a gas-heated home, as the median sales price for a Massachusetts MLS-listed home heated by gas was nearly $50,000 more than a home heated by oil. ($322,000 versus $275,00, per MLSPIN sales 1/1/12-10/31/12).
· Our Bates By the Numbers archive [Curbed Boston]