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Classifying the Hub's Condo Markets

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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 classifies the region's different condo markets. (Last week, he wrote about the motives behind supply and demand in Hub housing.)

I thought I would try to classify the condominium market of different Hub neighborhoods.

Enviable–These neighborhoods include Back Bay, Beacon Hill and Brookline. These are "statement" neighborhoods. They have many of the city's most expensive condos and a lot of $1 million-plus sales—like Back Bay, where nearly one third of the condo sales topped $1 million (through 9/30). Their chief vibe is that they have proximity to city locations and city conveniences like the T and retail, but a suburban feel to them, in that they feel safe or have a good school system (Brookline). At more than 40 years old, these are some of the original Hub condo markets, and today's development projects tend to be smaller. Put a hole in the ground in an enviable market and no doubt you are looking at $1 million-plus condos.

Established–These neighborhoods include Cambridge and the South End. They are contiguous to and more urban and diverse than Enviable neighborhoods. They include rich, poor, white and minority demographics. Their top locations and newly developed properties can definitely support million-dollar sales and those even higher. However, they do not sell the very highest-priced condos–those are reserved for Enviable markets. Significant development in Established markets came a little later than in Enviable markets. When someone says they are buying in an Established location, no one argues. The condos in Established markets tend to have better finishes than Enviable neighborhoods.

Emerged–These neighborhoods include South Boston, Jamaica Plain and Somerville. They are often adjacent to Established neighborhoods. Condos in these neighborhoods didn't start to become in vogue until about 15 years ago, and today these neighborhoods have lots of development. That means they are no longer emerging, they have Emerged. They are hotbeds for younger, hipper and alternative demographics, but they can draw down-sizers, too. They can be more challenging locations for commuting, and sizable portions of them don't have ready T access. They generate a million-dollar sale here and there, but a $600K condo in these markets is something to behold–big, bright, shiny and new.

Enhancing–These neighborhoods include Midtown, the Waterfront, the Seaport District and the Fenway. They tend to be locations in transition, where development often happens with the construction of a big building. They have some really high-priced sales, and often the appeal to living in these markets is great buildings with great views and amenities. At the same time, Enhancing neighborhoods could also include neighborhoods like Dorchester or Roslindale that seem perched to become the next emerging market because of early innovators.

Other–Other is just other, neighborhoods where not much is being said about the condo market.

· Our Bates By the Numbers archive [Curbed Boston]