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This Cambridge Home Received an Over-Ask Offer for the Ages

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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.

2013 might become known in local real estate circles as "the year of the over-ask."

Through the first five months of the year, in 13 Greater Boston neighborhoods I have been following, just over 1,700 condos have sold. Nearly 40 percent of them went for more than the asking . Compare that to about 15 percent of condo sales that received over-asks in the same time period in 2012. This year, 67 went for at least $50K over-ask and 10 went for at least $100K over-ask. One, 37 Beacon Street, went for $200K over-ask.

In those same neighborhoods, ditto the time period, a little more than 200 single-family homes sold. About 40 percent of the single-families went for over-ask as well. In West Cambridge, which appears to be the hottest over-ask market for single-families in Greater Boston, five of seven single-family sales went for at least $100K over-ask. Three went for at least $300K over-ask. One, 66 Sparks Street, an 1873 mansion located on a Brattle side street (and pictured above), had an offer so far over-ask that anyone who operates on a budget might find it hard to fathom. In fact, it's an offer that puts the $376,000 over-ask at 79 Coolidge to shame.

In the year of the over-ask, I suppose somebody had to do it. Somebody had to come out and make an offer so bold, so far over-ask, it was sure to announce to the Boston residential real estate community, "I am the king or queen of the over-ask world." I bow to you, 66 Sparks buyer, and I bow to the open kitchen, Japanese-inspired gardens, and over-sized driveway that helped inspire that special over-ask offer, an offer that may be remembered in Boston real estate circles years from now with the vividness of Carlton Fisk waving the ball fair. Was the buyer motivated by making the sellers an offer they couldn't refuse or was the buyer just saying, "You think that's crazy—I'll show you crazy!"? Given that the ownership is shrouded in a trust managed by a Pennsylvania wealth management attorney, we just may never find out.

Yet, unlike the dilapidated single-families garnering extraordinarily high over-ask offers from developers looking to fix up and re-sell, I am told 66 Sparks was bought by a residential end user, driven by emotions rather than profits. One of the listing agents, Christian Jones, writes to me that the "buyer had to have it!" The Sparks home, with ultra-high ceilings and huge windows, was listed at $3.7 million and didn't have an offer frenzy like more mainstream-priced homes. It did have two offers, one of which reflected the "had to have" level of commitment of someone who must live in a "money is no object" world. It was so far over-ask, I felt like surveying the neighborhood to find out if Harvard billionaire dropouts Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg were in the vicinity.

How much over-ask did the buyer go? How about $1.3 million over-ask? You read that right: $1.3 million over the asking price. The "picture-perfect" home at 66 Sparks was listed for $3.7 million and closed on May 28 for $5 million. That's an over-ask for the ages.

(Neighborhoods followed in this report include: Brookline, Brighton, Cambridge, Somerville, Back Bay, Beacon Hill, South End, South Boston, Seaport District, North End, Midtown, Jamaica Plain and Charlestown)
· Our Bates By the Numbers [Curbed Boston]