Signs of the Real Estate Times

David Bates / April 19, 2012-12:46 pm

For the condo seminar I did, I spoke with David Zussman who developed one of Greater Boston’s first condominium complexes in Chestnut Hill in 1968.

The thought to put condominiums at 209 Commonwealth Ave., Chestnut Hill came about when a local bank told David that they wouldn’t finance his acquisition and rehabilitation of the fire damaged property as an apartment building. But they would finance the project as condominiums if David, a successful home builder at the time who knew little about condominium development, took a trip to Florida where it was becoming popular.

209 Commonwealth Ave, Chestnut Hill was developed into condominiums in the late 1960's.

Shortly afterwards, 209 Commonwealth came to market. I couldn’t help but chuckle as David recalled that consumers in the era of free love called the sales office and mistakenly referred to the condominiums as “condoms.” Nonetheless, it seems that real estate buyers in 1968 had the same concerns as they do now. To persuade buyers, David’s sales staff showed them a comparison between buying a condominium and renting an apartment. The comparison demonstrated that when you took into account all the tax benefits, condominiums were a better investment than renting. His project sold out and it wasn’t long before David became a leader in local condominium conversions and construction. In the early 1970s, as president of Condominiums, Inc., he at times predicted that as much as 50% of new residential construction would be for condominiums.

Over the years, David estimates he developed 2,000 condominiums. He is in the process of marketing one of the last he has on market, on Hammond Street in Chestnut Hill. Today, at 80, he is looking for apartment buildings he can buy. I’m sorry to say that his foray back into buying apartments instead of developing condominiums may be a sign of the complete 180 that the real estate financing market has done since his first project on Com Ave.