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On Southie Becoming South Boston

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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. Follow him on Twitter and check out his ebook, Context: Nine Key Condo Markets, 2.0.

What's changing in South Boston? The demographics, the restaurants, the real estate prices. I spoke with Joyce Lebedew, a third-generation South Bostonian and one of the top real estate agents in this key Boston neighborhood, to get her insights on the changes. Joyce might have best summed up the massive change in this community when she told me, "Southie is gone. It's now South Boston."

Can you describe the South Boston real estate market?
South Boston is—not just my opinion, but worldwide—it's the hottest, fastest-growing real estate market in the country.

What's one big change happening in the South Boston Market?
I have a project at 401-407 West First Street, a 49-unit project. I have 11 left. Nine out of 10 of the buyers are empty-nesters. …They're selling their 10,000-square-foot homes in Wellesley to come live in Southie. My heart is full.

What do you think is driving that?
Where else can you get 3,000 square feet of top-of-the-line—Viking, heated bathroom floors, steam showers, Grohe fixtures, garage parking—in an elevator building and a gorgeous roof deck with 360-degree views of the city for $1.7 million? Where else can you get that?

That's a new price point for South Boston, isn't it?
That's a new comp for a non-concierge, with no doorman. That's a new price for South Boston …. I love record-setting sales and I love to be the one doing it.

What about the other price points?
What I find is the price point was always $350K to $450K last year. Now it jumped from $450K to $550K. And, if you had them at $550K, you're going to sell 25 a day.

What sale for you symbolizes the new market we are in?
I sold 565 East Eighth Street seven months ago. I put three units on the market and they were all gone by the end of the day. Multiple offers: 20 offers on one, 31 offers on the other. My buyer wound up getting engaged. He moved to Andover. I put his unit on the market and it's seven months later and it's a $200,000 profit.

Take me through the real estate landscape in South Boston?
I'll ask a buyer, the first questions I'll ask them, water view or city view? What would you prefer? And I find the young professionals, the young couples looking to start their family, love the water. We're really not looking at the Greek Isles here in South Boston; however, I mean we're surrounded by water and a lot of people love that. It's more of a Cape Cod feel. You'll see a lot of young professionals jogging. You'll see a lot of young moms and all the moms groups with their baby carriages. …On the other side you'll see a lot of the empty-nesters. People who want to be close to the Seaport District, the highways, the T stop, love this area as well.

People who work in the Financial District love City Point because the No. 7 will stop up there; it's a three-and-a-half-minute bus ride to South Station. And, more and more today, people want to be closer to the T stop and that's what's driving those prices up in those neighborhoods as far as I'm concerned.

What's your opinion of the diversity of the new South Boston?
We are the most diverse: different lifestyles, different cultures. I love that. I'm proud of that. I filled 49 units with that. I did that. …I would say 50 percent of Southie is a gay couple at this point, a lot of them are females… The gay community has helped drive prices in this town. They take pride in their property.

You know what I find, what I have been seeing and what I hear from friends that I have here: People from the South End are going to Southie and the families are going to the South End. …But you're not going to get 401 West First Street in the South End.

What would you say to someone who is considering moving to South Boston?
What I tell buyers who are considering living here is the community, the sense of community you get. I love this town. I will die in this town. I've helped, I've contributed, I've fought for the changes. ... People say 'Southie, I don't get it.' I just sold a home yesterday to a couple who said, 'Our friends don't get it,' and I said, 'Maybe when you sell this in two years they'll get it.' By then, they've missed the boat.

Care to comment on parking in South Boston?
Parking sucks! I try not to list anything without parking. You know why? I wouldn't buy something without parking. So if I get a listing and it doesn't have deeded parking, I actually have 61 parking leases that Joyce Lebedew Real Estate leases, so I'll always be able to offer third-party rental parking to clients … and if you go through the history of my listings, 99 percent of them, I can offer parking. I've secured it.

What do you think is going to happen in South Boston the rest of 2014?
I don't see anything slowing down in South Boston real estate. I just see it growing.The sense of urgency isn't smoke and mirrors. There's a sincere true sense in South Boston: If you're considering us, buy it, buy it soon.
· Our Bates By the Numbers archive [Curbed Boston]