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A Boston Inventory Tale

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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, he eavesdrops on the Boston condo market. (Last week, he told you how to win when there are multiple offers for the home you want.)

(The following is based on actual Greater Boston condominium inventory as noted on Jan. 1 at 11 a.m.)

The Back Bay condo market was talking to the South End condo market, when the Back Bay condo market asked, "Do you have any two-bed, two-baths condos with 1,200 square feet or more in a good location? My clients can pay up to $700K."

The South End condo market responded, "The cheapest I have is $765K; and, over the last three months, I sold 18 two-bed, two-baths, and the cheapest was $702K."

So the Back Bay condo market called the South Boston condo market, but it was very hard to hear South Boston over the sound of construction. Yet, despite all the development, the South Boston condo market told Back Bay, "I only have one and it is on a first floor."

The Back Bay knew his buyers wouldn't live on a first floor, so South Boston was out.

During all this, Brighton called Back Bay, and as if Back Bay buyers would consider buying in Brighton, Brighton said: "I just want you to know that I don't have any two-bed, two-baths, either."

If Brighton didn't have any under $700K, of course, it meant Boston two-bed/two-baths were going to be harder to find than Waldo in an underwater candy cane factory. So Back Bay quickly called the North End and the Waterfront, but the North End Condo Market started laughing when he heard "over 1,200 square feet" and the Waterfront Condo Market started laughing when she heard "under $700K."

Charlestown had one possible condo, but the $852-a-month condo fee didn't work for Back Bay's buyer. Back Bay began to despair. "You had a better chance of buying an iPhone 5 on launch day," he thought, "than a reasonably priced Boston two-bed, two-bath condo."

Given how low the inventory was in the city, Back Bay started to look beyond Boston. He called the Brookline Condo Market and Brookline replied, "My cheapest is $740K."

Back Bay called the Somerville Condo Market, but Somerville didn't have any-- not even one on the first floor or one with an extraordinarily high condo fee.

Cambridge had a couple, none in any of their most enviable squares, of course, but a few by North Point.

While there was virtually no inventory, Back Bay took solace in the fact that the MLS showed 12 two-bed/two-baths selling a month in these markets. Somebody was getting them.

The moral of the story? The fear you could substitute "I" or "My broker" for the term "Back Bay" and "The condo I want" for "two-bed, two-bath." ....Happy condo hunting in 2013!
· Our Bates By the Numbers archive [Curbed Boston]