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South Boston On Half-Alert

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. And check out his new ebook, Context: Nine Key Condo Markets.

Former superstar mutual fund manager Peter Lynch once wrote, "If you stay half-alert, you can pick spectacular performers right from your place of business or out of the neighborhood shopping mall." What he meant was that if you pay attention to the simple things around you, you may be able to spot a trend and take financial advantage of it long before professional investors discover it. He could have been talking about the current South Boston real estate market.

South Boston's real estate numbers for the first half of the year are impressive, but I don't need to see the numbers to know how hot the South Boston real estate market is; I just have to stay half-alert to the world around me. And, if I am half-alert, it's hard not to think that this Boston neighborhood is operating some kind of huge tractor beam and pulling people out of my social orbit and putting them into its homes.

One day, Andrew, the 23-year-old tenant in one of the rentals I manage, informed me that he wouldn't be renewing his Brighton lease because he is taking an apartment in Southie with "an unbelievable roofdeck." He has a good job and, he's moving to Southie even though he's admittedly not getting as much for his money. He emails me that it's "the place to live for our age group."

Max is a co-worker in my Back Bay real estate office. He's 28 and a two-year Southie resident. He wrote me that he moved to Southie solely because of the amount of people he knew that had moved there—which presumably included Arianna, a 25-year-old co-worker in the same office and her 27-year-old sister.

And, if I have to pick up something at our company's Tremont Street office, I will likely run across Jeff, the company's COO, who used to consider himself a diehard South Ender until he saw a Southie condo that he couldn't resist. The South End-to-South Boston relo cut his mortgage in half, while netting him an additional 700 square feet and a condo fee about one-third his South End one.

When I stop at B of A on Boylston Street, there's Kavita, a 26-year-old service representative who moved from Beacon Hill to South Boston three years ago. She says she got much more space for the money and she likes being near the water.

Then there's Marcus Rashotsky, the Southie broker who I am doing a transaction with west of the city and who told me that West Broadway is going to become the next Charles Street, Newbury Street or Tremont Street. "It's actually becoming yuppified," he wrote, "not hipster."

Still, I'm only half-alert when I see the $1.9 million condo sale that recently closed in Southie, but I think it's time to go to the Starbucks at 11 West Broadway and get fully alert.
· Our Bates By the Numbers archive [Curbed Boston]