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What's Happening in the Cambridge Housing Market Right Now

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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 has made Gail Roberts one of the Coldwell Banker's top 10 agents worldwide? My guess is her personality has something to do with it. She is energetic, present to the moment, and quick-witted. I caught up with Gail to discuss the Cambridge market, where she has brokered more than 500 sales.

How would you describe the current Cambridge market?
All year, it's been pretty fast-paced. … What was interesting is that inventory has picked up a bit. We've been running the past year a little over maybe 20 to 30 percent down, most places down. All of the sudden now, we're like 15 percent down. … It's interesting, we've done a lot lately in that $1 million to $1.5 million range [the MLS shows 21 pending sales in this price range in the last six weeks versus nine in the same time period a year ago] ... The properties coming on the market with energy, that look good, that are priced right are still getting multiple bids.

So, is this a hard market to figure out the best list price for a property?
Yeah, it is hard, but Cambridge has what I call a "correction factor." Let's say you're priced at $997K. If it should be selling at a $1.2 million, you will get it.

A single-family you listed at 13 Greenough went $350,000 over ask. Don't you think that's a little crazy?
Our seller was happy. A lot of Cambridge is taken up with universities and businesses. We don't have a ton of houses, only 15 percent of the market is single-families

What's your advice to buyers in this type of market?
I think it's a tough time for young people. You go, you look, you know you're going to have competition. You got to find a place you love, that's No. 1. If you've had a bad day, if you get cut off in traffic and you're annoyed, at least you can go home and love where you are. Then you can breathe, you can meditate, do something creative. You can unwind. I really believe that. One of the things that I honestly believe is that if you miss something, there's something better around the corner for you. … I just really feel that you're going to be happy at the next place.

Has the Cambridge market impacted Somerville?
We've moved into Somerville. First of all, Davis Square is so cool, it's hip. We do a lot in Somerville, too. As a matter of fact this office [1730 Mass Ave. in Cambridge] does more in Somerville than I think anyone else [confirmed through the MLS] … What's the difference between Somerville and Cambridge now? If you are talking about the people in the 500K to 600K range, they'll look in Cambridge, but they'll also look in Somerville. [Sometimes the higher-end buyers will also consider both locations. Ed Feijo, who works on Gail's team, points out that a buyer who bought their $1.7M Cambridge listing had made an offer on their $1.4M Somerville listing.]

Would you say that Harvard Square commands the most value?
Well, around the square. There are other areas; look what's happening in Davis Square.

What are the most sought-after amenities?
If we're talking about some condos, people want to walk to things for the most part. … People have turned into big foodie groups. So you got a lot of foodie people who want a big kitchen or the space to have a kitchen. So I think kitchen and being able to entertain and do things is always a big thing. … Empty-nesters might want to have things on flats. We get empty-nesters because there are all kinds of programs at Harvard.

Are we going to see any real development projects in Cambridge?
It's hard because we don't have the space and you can't take things down. I keep thinking there's a huge demand for some flats for empty-nesters but the developers don't want to make them 2,400 square feet. They want to make them 1,000 so they can sell two instead of one big one, to a great extent. They make more money by selling more units.

What do you think is going to happen for the rest of 2014 inventory-wise in Cambridge?
Well, I think if we are seeing more coming on now, then maybe it will continue to come on, but I don't think it's ever going to-- I don't think in the next four or five months it's going to have a glut of properties.
· Our Bates By the Numbers archive [Curbed Boston]

Davis Square

College Avenue, Somerville, MA 02144