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Got Parking? In the Hub, It's Any Price, Anyhow

Here's the latest installment of Bates By the Numbers, a weekly feature by Boston real estate agent David Bates that drills down into the Hub's housing market to uncover those trends you would not otherwise see. Check out his ebook, Context: Nine Key Condo Markets.

Early in my real estate brokering career, I got a feel for the value of a parking space. I was representing a condominium conversion and the developer showed me three cars parked single-file in a line that fit snugly between two buildings. He asked if I could get $15K for the middle spot, a spot that would have to exchange keys with the owners of the other two spaces—a spot that, judging its width, might only be sold to folks of a certain body type. Of course, he explained that it couldn't be called parking because it didn't meet the zoning code for parking. According to him it had to be referred to as "an exclusive right to use area."

For a while, I was a little less than aggressive about presenting "exclusive right to use area" to the prospective condo buyers. Then, an attorney who was buying one of the modestly priced rehabbed condos seemed desperate for a parking space and asked me if I had any. I sheepishly walked him out to the area and explained the situation. He paid the $15,000.

In our parking-crazed region, some people will take parking in any form it comes.

A few years later, the listing agent for another condo showed me an area behind the building where the owner of the condo parked. Apparently, the owner had no official right to park there, but he had been parking there for years and no one had questioned it. Perhaps neighbors assumed he owned or rented the space; neither was the case. Of course, nothing could be guaranteed, but with a little luck the next owner might park there rent-free for the foreseeable future. About 10 years and two owners later, I visited the condo when it came on the market again, and, sure enough, that owner was using the same parking space and telling the same story. It might sound like an urban parking legend, but it's true.

The right to park is of such consequence, however, that when parking is considered risky, most buyers are risk-averse. I showed an investor a three-unit building that was represented as having three parking spaces, but the cars were parked in such a way that it was obvious they weren't legal. It wasn't the price of the building that caused the investor to pull out of the deal, it was the illegal parking.

Of course, some buyers might not have to worry about parking, let alone anything less than kosher parking spaces. Take the buyer of Unit 2 at 106 Addington Road in Brookline. That condo sold this past April and had 14 parking spaces. Ditto the buyer of Unit 506 at 1600 Beacon Street, a tenanted Brookline 2-BR with 17 parking spots. The combined rent for the condo and parking came to $84,000 a year and the asking price was $1,099,000. That condo sold for $1,150,000.
· Our Bates By the Numbers archive [Curbed Boston]