Boston Real Estate Expert Cites Changes In The Market

David Bates / February 17, 2011-11:37 pm

It’s been more than 20 years since Debra Taylor started LINK, a multiple listing service in Boston. Today, in addition to covering 12 of the most important Boston real estate neighborhoods, LINK produces quarterly and annual reports about what is happening in the Boston condominium market. I recently checked in with Debra to ask her about the changes she has seen in our great market.

One major change Debra noted was the proliferation of Full Service Buildings in the Boston market. In the mid-1990s, the downtown condominium housing stock was primarily made up of converted brownstones. However, as the local real estate market appreciated, more and more ground-up buildings hit the Boston streets — so much so that LINK created a separate category called “Luxury Buildings.”

Today LINK tracks the details of sales in more than 77 Boston luxury buildings. More recently, buildings such as the Mandarin, 1 Charles and Atelier 505 have set a new bar for luxury and services, so LINK is going to add a new category to its reports: “Ultra Luxury.”

Another change over the two decades Debra has reported on the Boston real estate market is the emergence of the South End as a self-contained, mainstream neighborhood. As it evolved from the ’70s to the ’90s, the South End was primarily known for attracting artists, urban pioneers and alternative lifestyles. (BTW, there is an enjoyable history of the South End in Anthony Lukas’ Pulitzer prize-winning book, “Common Ground.”) Today, it is an affluent area, home to some of Boston’s best restaurants, and not as connected to the Back Bay market as it had been previously. If you walk through the South End today, you’ll likely see more baby strollers than artists.

Debra noted two aspects of the current market — those of opportunity and missed opportunity. The opportunity she sees occurring includes the current state of market affairs leading to the ability to buy in a great building like Harbor Towers, where you get outstanding location, full service and incredible views for only $500 a square foot. The missed opportunity deals with how developers for high-end downtown condominium projects can no longer get financing. Although this blog counts 2010 as one of the best years ever for million dollar Boston condominium sales, the new buildings being planned for the market are destined to become luxury rentals.

As for a change in Boston’s real estate future, Debra optimistically predicts that the efforts to improve city schools downtown will succeed and as a result bring families back to many downtown neighborhoods.