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The Smallest Boston Real Estate Story

Introducing 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 under-$500K condo market.

If you are looking for the smallest Boston real estate story, it might be the condominium inventory.

There ain’t much in it, and there’s even less of it listed for under $500K.

I've posted to the right the results of an MLS report I did that shows by date and year the number of on-market Boston condominiums listed between $200K and $499K. Check out how July 19, 2012 stacks up against the same date in years past. (Spoiler alert: You might need a microscope to see the 2012 inventory.)

Boston’s moderately priced condominium inventory is in reality even tinier than the 517 cited. That’s because, of the 517 condominiums identified by MLS as “On-Market,” 122 of them have filled out what’s called “Active Status Forms,” which causes the listing to be identified in red on MLS. Properties with this type of MLS status have already found a buyer and cannot be purchased by another buyer unless the contracted buyer decides not to pursue the property. Obviously, inventory that cannot be purchased cannot be considered “real inventory.” So while the “listed inventory” for Boston condominiums under $500K totals 517 condominiums, the “real inventory” is only 395 condominiums (517-122=395).

Do 395 condominiums listed under $500K (actually, $200K to $499K) seem too few for our fair city? Consider this: Boston is the anchor of the 10th largest metropolitan area in the country, an area whose population is estimated at 4.5 million (Wikipedia citing 2010 U.S. Census), and the median home price in the U.S. in June was reported to be $189K. So, in answer to my question, I’d put it this way: If the local housing market were a car, and moderately priced condominium inventory was gas, I’d say we we’re currently running on fumes.