Monthly Archives: November 2015

Home sales surge for the fifth month

Double-digit gains continue in hottest market since 1980s

Home sales in Massachusetts jumped 16 percent last month from a year earlier as the state’s housing real estate market continued one of the hottest streaks since the boom of the late 1980s, a Boston real estate tracking firm reported. picture-uh=2f2b20f697257f4ca161570927664cf-ps=3f75311aa8eb9b7f12be82973ae100-121-Central-St-Norwell-MA-02061

October marked the fifth consecutive month of double-digit gains in single-family home sales, a streak that included a 25 percent surge in September, a 16 percent increase in August, and a 24 percent jump in July from the same months in 2014, the Warren Group reported. All told, two-thirds of this year’s single-family home sales have occurred in the past five months — the biggest share of annual sales during the period since 1987, when the Warren Group adopted its current tracking method.

“This is what a red-hot market looks like,’’ the firm said in its report.

A rebound from the brutal winter, which depressed sales in the beginning of the year, as well as low mortgage rates and an improved economy, have contributed to the recent surge, said Timothy Warren Jr., chief executive of the Warren Group, which publishes the real estate trade journal Banker & Tradesman. Home sales in the first 10 months of the year — more than 45,000 — are up nearly 11 percent from the same period in 2014.

While prices in some markets in and around Boston have risen rapidly, statewide prices have advanced modestly, the Warren Group said. The median single-family home sales price in Massachusetts in October was $327,000, up 2 percent from $320,000 in October 2014.

Condominium sales rose 8 percent last month, after jumping about 20 percent in September. The median condo price in the state rose 8 percent, to $315,000 from about $290,000 in October 2014, according to the Warren Group.

The Massachusetts Association of Realtors, which tracks a slightly narrower segment of the real estate market, also reported a solid increase in single-family home sales. The trade group said October sales rose nearly 8 percent from a year earlier and the median price increased about 3 percent to $335,000 from $325,000.

Condominium sales slipped about 2 percent, although the median price climbed more than 5 percent, to $316,000 from $300,000 in October 2014, according to the Massachusetts Association of Realtors.
Inventories, meanwhile, remain tight, the association said. The number of both homes and condos for sale last month fell about 17 percent from a year earlier.

Also Tuesday, the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices, a widely followed measure of the housing market, reported that home prices in the Boston metropolitan area rose 4.8 percent in September, compared to the same month in 2014. Nationally, prices rose 4.9 percent, according to the index.

Details of Flower Exchange sale remain under wraps

Who’s buying the Flower Exchange?

The answer appears to be a rarity in Boston real estate circles: It’s a well-kept secret.

The 5.6-acre floral wholesale warehouse on Albany Street in the South End sits squarely on one of the hottest corners of Boston’s red-hot real estate market.

When shareholders in the century-old cooperative put the place up for sale last spring, they got at least five offers, including several from big-name Boston developers, starting at $35 million.
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By midsummer, a preliminary deal was in place, according to several watchful neighbors and losing bidders, at a price north of $40 million. That would be a huge sum for a few acres of land. But no one seemed to know who was buying.And since then? Silence.

Vendors at the exchange, neighbors, rival developers, and real estate brokers — about 20 people queried by the Globe in recent weeks — all say they are in the dark.

“I’m digging into it myself,” said Bill Jacobson, who owns Jacobson Floral Supply next door. “I haven’t heard anything new in months.”

Brokers love to blab ahead of deals they’ve got in the works. But not this time. The Flower Exchange board is handling the sale in-house. No leaks there.

Developers often will dish on their rivals. Not here though. While a few big names privately acknowledge they lost the bidding war, they’ve no idea who won.

City officials are often in the know, but they say they’ve heard little.

And neighborhood groups are legendarily nosy. Yet on this they’ve got nothing.

“I don’t know what’s going on,” said Steve Fox, chair of the South End Forum, an umbrella group of local neighborhood associations. “If you hear something, let me know.”

In the absence of real news, rumors abound.

There’s chatter that Patriots owner Bob Kraft is buying the site, as parking for a new soccer stadium for his New England Revolution in nearby Widett Circle. But those stadium plans are vague at best, and $40 million for a parking lot seems steep even for a billionaire. A Kraft spokesman had no comment Monday. But that’s not unusual.

Others whisper “the Chinese” are backing a buyer, whatever that might mean. One person pointed to Boston University’s National Emerging Infectious Diseases Lab next door, and wondered about an expansion. There’s speculation about a supermarket, or yet another of the big apartment blocks that are sprouting through the South End like sunflowers.

“It’s certainly a topic of interest,” said Bill Gause, director of acquisitions at Leggat McCall, which last week rolled out plans for 700 apartments of its own across Albany Street from the Flower Exchange. “But we haven’t heard anything.”

Then there are the vendors and wholesalers who work in the building. The sale came up at the Exchange’s annual shareholders’ meeting last month, but only for a brief update that an agreement had been reached and the unnamed buyer was performing due diligence.

“They’re being very quiet about it,” longtime wholesaler Gerry Cupp said. “I don’t blame them. It’s not a done deal yet.”

Cupp and others say they’d love an answer. After all, their businesses will probably need to move. Anyone paying $40 million or more likely has bigger plans for the place than a low-slung floral warehouse.

“Nobody quite knows what their future’s going to be,” Cupp said.

Indeed, there’s just one person who knows for sure what’s going on. Joe Cefalo, an attorney who sits on the Flower Exchange board and is handling the sale. His lips are sealed.

“I really can’t tell you anything about anything” until the agreement is final, Cefalo said Monday. “Everybody’s sworn to secrecy.”

POCKETS of CONSTRUCTION

Development is booming in Boston — there’s about $7 billion worth — but just a few neighborhoods are seeing most of the action

The $7 billion in construction underway in this city right now is changing Boston forever. But some parts of Boston are changing much faster than others.

The 83 large building projects under construction¬ in Boston stretch across 19 of the city’s 25 neighborhoods, from Charlestown to Mattapan, according to data tracked by the Boston Redevelopment Authority. Yet they’re concentrated in a relative handful of places. About $4 billion worth of the construction — it includes everything from housing to hotels to new storefronts — is taking place in just three neighborhoods: the Seaport, downtown, and the Back Bay.

Count the number of projects, and nearly a fourth are in two neighborhoods: South Boston and the Fenway.
And there are places, both in the heart of Boston and along its southern boundary, that are seeing no sizable development at all.

In some ways, this is no surprise. s22222

Office and condo developers are packing glitzy towers into the core neighborhoods, chasing rents this town has never seen before. Places with little room to build, such as the North End, or beyond the reach of the MBTA — Hyde Park, for instance — aren’t seeing much going on at any scale. But neighborhoods in the middle with big universities or good T access are hopping.

Whether on the border of Dorchester and South Boston, where Synergy Investments is building a $60 million apartment complex by JFK/UMass Station on the MBTA’s Red Line, or on the East Boston waterfront, where Gerding Edlen is putting up a 200-foot residential building, developers are scooping up sites near T stations and within hailing distance of downtown.

Spots like that make a lot of sense to build in, said Harold¬ Brown, one of the city’s largest and most veteran landlords. A growing population of young professionals want to live in Boston, close to the action. They can’t quite afford downtown rents, but they can pay enough to make new construction feasible.

That’s why Brown’s Hamilton Co. broke ground this summer on a 48-unit, $11.5 million apartment building on Malvern Street in Allston. It’s part of $100 million in housing investment that Hamilton has planned in the neighborhood over the next decade, a response, Brown said, to a new crop of renters moving to Allston.

“The population has changed. There’s a lot of young professionals coming there to live and taking jobs,’’ Brown said. “You have much bigger demand than ever before.’’

NORTH STATION
LOVEJOY WHARF, 131 BEVERLY ST.
A two-building complex near the Charlestown Bridge that includes luxury housing and a new headquarters for Converse Inc.

SOUTH END
NORTHEASTERN UNIVERSITY, 795 COLUMBUS AVE. 
The university is building a $225 million science and engineering complex that includes a public green space.

JAMAICA PLAIN
3593 WASHINGTON ST.
The Commons at Forest Hills Station is a 280-unit apartment building on the site of a former petroleum depot.

SOUTH BOSTON WATERFRONT
1 SEAPORT SQUARE
With 1.5 million square feet that includes this 832-unit apartment building under construction, Seaport Square is the largest development currently underway in Boston.

BACK BAY
888 BOYLSTON ST.
Boston Properties is building a 17-story building at the Prudential Center that will be home to Natixis Global Asset Management.