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Condo sales in Boston mixed in the immediate wake of coronavirus

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Some neighborhoods saw spikes in trades despite the pandemic, while others saw steep drop-offs in activity

The exterior of a multi-floor condo building up close, with terraces off some of the units. Shutterstock

It is the biggest parlor game in Boston real estate right now: How will the novel coronavirus pandemic affect housing sales? A new report from Warren Residential, part of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, shows a mixed bag from neighborhood to neighborhood during the first three months of 2020 in terms of condo sales.

Some locations saw marked increases in condo deals, even as the pandemic started disrupting the city at the tail end of March.

The number of closed sales was up 150 percent annually in Allston, for instance, and in Brighton more than 42 percent. In tiny Bay Village, the increase was 100 percent. In Back Bay, it was 10 percent, and, in Fenway/Kenmore, it was 45 percent-plus.

Then there were the steep declines. In Charlestown, the number of condo trades was down more than 45 percent compared with the first quarter of 2019, and, in East Boston, the number was down 64 percent-plus. In Dorchester, Boston’s biggest neighborhood, condo sales were off more than 12 percent year over year.

It’s difficult to divine why there were steep declines in some enclaves and sharp increases in others. It’s not necessarily a function of the inventories of available homes—a usual suspect. In Eastie, for instance, inventory was up by a double-digit percentage in the first quarter, but condo sales in the neighborhood still dropped that 64 percent-plus.

What analysts and brokers (and voyeurs) can agree on is that the pandemic has hit pause on what’s traditionally the very busy spring home-shopping season. It’s unclear when things will return to normal or how long the normality will last. The previous recession in 2008-2009 caused a months-long blip in the market—and then everything took off. Stay tuned.