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Boston's Real Estate Cliff

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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 looks at the effects of Boston's absurdly low condo inventory on the city. (Last week, he explained why Back Bay condos cost what they cost.)

McDonald's would never run out of hamburgers.

Amazon would never run out of books.

But could Greater Boston run out of reasonably priced condos?

Currently, the city's on-market condominium inventory is scary low. It's so low that if we were using actively marketed Boston condos as gas for our car, we might not make it to the closest station to fill up. A year ago, Boston had nearly twice as many condos on the market as it does today. Brookline had two-and-a-half times its current condo selection and South Boston was marketing more than three times the 46 condos currently being marketed. Put simply: Regardless of price, there are very few condos available to buy in Boston; and, when demand is high and supply is low, prices go up.

You might not realize how the pricing menu of Greater Boston condos has changed in just a year. A year ago (12/12/11), the median list price of an on-market condo in the South End was $575K. Today, the median is $749K. Which is more incredible: the $174K increase or the fact that 02118 now has a 90210 median list price?

In Greater Boston, rising median list prices are not relegated to the South End. Brookline's median list price for on-market condos is $202K higher than it was a year ago, up from $538K to $740K. And a year ago in Back Bay, the median list price for on-market condos was a cool million—today it is a cool $1.47 million. That new median might get Robin Leach excited, but if you're looking for modestly priced Boston condos to buy, it's an indication you just might have a better chance of seeing the Jets win the Super Bowl this year.

When Boston housing prices spiraled out of control between 2001 and 2005, the Boston Foundation's Housing Report Card stated that it contributed to 60,000 more people leaving the Hub than coming to it, many of them in the 20- to 34-year-old age demographic. FYI, back in 2005, when there was no marketing of condos after they had technically found buyers, the city had five times the amount of condos on the market as it does today and the median listing price of the on-market inventory was $390K. Today the median list price of Boston's on-market available-to-purchase inventory is $483K, which provokes the request: Would the last hipster to leave the Hub please take the titanium spork with him?
· History Lesson in Supply and Demand for Greater Boston [Curbed Boston]
· Our Bates By the Numbers archive [Curbed Boston]