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Why Dorchester Is More Than Where Mayor Marty Walsh Lives

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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.

Kerry Dowlin of Gibson Sotheby's International Realty has been a top agent in Dorchester for 12 years. She moved from New Mexico to Massachusetts and when I asked how she ended up in Dorchester 14 years ago, she told me that her reasons were similar to the buyer clients she represents today: "I wanted to buy my first house and looked around at different areas and this was the most affordable. … Price point definitely brought me over and I just fell in love with it." We spent a few moments discussing this important market.

How would you describe today's Dorchester real estate market?
I feel like we're experiencing a lot of growth. A lot of buyers from all over the city are coming here just because it's so affordable, especially when you compare it to our neighboring communities like South Boston--which is through the roof. So a lot of people come that ½ mile, mile down the road and see what they can get for their money. So we just have a whole new influx of buyers.

I see a lot of young couples moving here from other areas that are just priced out of other markets. Young professionals maybe in their thirties, some even younger. A lot of gay couples move to this area. A lot of people from Cambridge move here because the red line is an easy thing to maneuver. … It really runs the gamut.

So people come here for value, what else is good about this market?
I think we have an unusual housing stock. You know it was once the burbs, where years ago people had these grand summer homes. So if you explore a little bit and you see some of these neighborhoods, the housing stock is amazing because it's Grand Victorian and there's lot of space between houses so it feels very neighborhood-y. We're right on the water so we have three or four yacht clubs, two beaches and waterfront dining--so it's just a really great place to bike or run.

Take me through some of the Dorchester real estate landscape?
It used to follow the parishes historically, so people who have been here a long time always refer to different neighborhoods by the Parish. St Anne's, the church near Pope's Hill or St. Brendan's down on Gallivan Boulevard. Those are more neighborhood-y. You've got a lot more single family housing stock. And then you have as you get closer into downtown Boston, it just changes. You have Field's Corner, a very diverse area and Jones Hill, which has some of the most expensive condos that we've ever had hit the market, some new construction that's been as high as the mid-sixes.

That's a deal for new construction compared to other parts of the city.
Most definitely.

What does it mean to have the Mayor live in your market?
I have to say that it doesn't hurt that Marty Walsh is right here in Dorchester, too. It certainly seems like we don't have as many pot holes (laughs). It a little cleaner. We see more trees. A little bit better.

Is Dorchester a bike-friendly market?
Yea, definitely. People can zip right into the city. They can go a number of different ways, over to Southie, along the water. So it's definitely becoming more and more bikable.

How important is it for condos to be near the train stations?
It's huge. The prices of condos that are closer to Savin Hill, JFK, are going to be consistently more expensive than some of the other neighborhoods that are a little bit further away.

How important is getting a condo with parking?
When people start to shop around here they realize that it's very easy to park. Within like one or two blocks of the T station, you don't even have to have a resident sticker. So it's very, very laid back compared to some of the other parts, like the South End or South Boston, but it's a nice amenity to have.

Dorchester was hit hard in the last recession. What are values doing now?
I saw something yesterday that showed a 35 percent increase in value compared to a year ago. ... We've definitely seen a big jump.

Are you seeing a lot of development?
Yea, definitely. For one, there's a really terrific proposal down in Ashmont for a six- story, mixed use development that's 81 residential units with some commercial on the ground floor. That's going to be exciting for that neighborhood.

Is there any recent change in the Dorchester market that really sticks out and says this is a new market?
I guess one thing that has been significant the last six months or so is that the investors have been here in droves. They used to pay maybe in the $400,000 range for a three-family and the prices of triple-deckers and investment properties have gone through the roof. Those are now selling in the sevens (laughs) And that happened very quickly, over just a couple of years. Just the numbers worked for them. That would have been not too long ago. That's kind of a wow.

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