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Lack of housing inventory is getting ridiculous in Boston

Boston condos

Boston condos

Boston Massachusetts Condos

The Massachusetts Association of Realtors has released its May housing numbers.

And you guessed it: Sales down again last month in Massachusetts (by 9 percent for single-family homes and 1.1 percent for condos) while prices continue to soar ($347,900 median price for single families, up 7 percent; $316,000 for condos, up 9 percent).

The main culprit: Lack of supply.

Total inventory of homes for sale was down by about 8 percent last month while the average days on the market fell to 99 days, down nearly 11 percent. There was a bump up in new listings. MAR president Peter Ruffini says that possibly bodes well for the inventory problems.

But it’s still not nearly enough to meet demand. It’s ridiculous.

When is it going to change?

Update – Scott seems to agree with Peter that the listings increase could be good news if it’s sustained. … We’ll see. The increase, however, merely takes us back to a level that was already too low. We need a bunch of months of increased listings to put a dent in the inventory problem. Again, we’ll see.

File under: Inventory blues

Mother Nature’s Danger Zones for Massachusetts homes

Boston condos

Boston condos

We’re constantly hearing about major hurricanes in Florida, devastating earthquakes in California, and crazy tornadoes in the Midwest.

But we didn’t know that large portions of Massachusetts – i.e. Worcester and Middlesex counties – are actually among the most risky areas of the country in terms of natural disasters destroying homes via hurricanes, tornados and earthquakes, etc., according to Realty Trac.

It appears major snow blizzards are included in the risk factors. OK, we can understand that. But central Massachusetts is more risky than the Cape or Islands? Now that’s surprising. And the Cape has Great White Sharks too!

Btw: Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi have the riskiest areas.

File under: You’ve been warned

Quincy moving fast to replace Marina Bay nightclub with apartments

Boston real estate

Boston real estate

It’s pretty obvious the city of Quincy is no big fan of the Ocean Club at Marina Bay.

So that may partially explain the fast-track schedule for building a new 352-unit luxury apartment complex by developers Hines, of Houston, and Metlife Inc., of New York.

The developers only bought the prime ocean-front property 10 days ago, after the property got necessary zoning approvals from the city earlier this spring. Construction is scheduled to start next spring, which has to be an all-time zoning-to-groundbreaking record for a town or city in Massachusetts.

The new apartments spell the end to the Ocean Club at Marina Bay, hugely popular with young nightclub goers but, well, not so popular with nearby non-nightclub-goer residents.

Using aerial drones to sell real estate in Massachusetts

Boston condos

Boston condos

The Herald has a story this morning on how the FAA is thinking of relaxing rules for commercial uses of aerial drones.

One Lexington real estate agent is plowing ahead, FAA be damned:

Lexington Realtor Jonathan de Araujo has been using a drone to take aerial shots of properties he is listing since last summer, and the birds-eye view has quickly found a place in de Araujo’s real estate arsenal.

“The end result is just unparalleled,” he said. “Everything we can do to give a more positive impression means more people at the open house. The idea is to just give a better, more positive, a more thorough impression of what you’re looking at.”

The FAA’s now cumbersome rules are embarrassing. Aerial drones are now being regularly used in many countries across the globe, including in the usually over-regulated France, which has reportedly managed to establish common-sense drone rules on a single piece of paper.

The US is seriously falling behind in this commercial technology (and its benefits) as a result of the FAA’s regulate-first-and-ask-questions-later mentality.

We know there’s some major issues involved.

But if you keep drones out of airport flight zones, restrict how high they can fly (for the same safety reasons), and ban taking close-up photos/videos of properties without the permission of owners, you’ve gone a long way toward alleviating concerns — and we just ticked off some common-sense restrictions in one blog post paragraph, let alone a full type-written page.

File under: Bureaucratic frustration

Lenders go into overdrive to clear out backlog of delinquent mortgages

Boston condos

Boston condos

For the second straight month, the number of foreclosure filings have spiked in Massachusetts, more than doubling in April compared to the same month in 2013.

What’s going on? Is the market tanking again? Is it a return to the ugly past?

Not really. Apparently lenders are now going all out to clean up their books and aggressively targeting the final backlog of delinquent mortgages, officials say.

And then lenders will presumably have enough money to lend again and repeat the entire boom-bust process that created the current delinquent-mortgage backlog in the first place.

Ah, the circle of life.

Impressive Mass. population growth is exacerbating housing shortage

Boston condos

Boston condos

So we’ve all heard how Massachusetts and other Northeast states have been losing population. Right?

That might have been true a few decades ago. But not recently.

Over the past three years alone, Massachusetts has grown by 129,561 people, or by 2 percent, to about 6.6 million people.

Most of that growth has occurred in the Greater Boston area (Boston, Somerville, Newton and Cambridge are at the top of the usual-suspects list, not surprisingly), while the Cape and western Massachusetts are not doing so swell, population-wise.

So think about it: Where are the majority of those 129,561 new people living? Did new housing just magically appear? Do you think this growth — which is otherwise highly encouraging — is contributing to driving up housing prices?

Here’s some more interesting Bay State data from the US Census.

File under: More housing, please

‘Manufactured homes’ may be key to affordable housing in Mass.

Boston real estate

Boston real estate

The Globe has an editorial calling for the Walsh administration to re-think construction codes and other city ordinances in order to make it easier to build more affordable “manufactured” homes in Boston. It’s a long over-due idea and suggestion that applies to all of Massachusetts, not just Boston.

First of all, many people need to get over of their 1970s and 1980s mindsets about “modular homes,” also known as “manufactured homes,” or structures that are mostly pre-made at a factory and assembled together on site like a huge model.

The image of such homes is that they’re dull, cheap variations of trailer homes. See image below. And, yes, they’re still making homes like that.

But the manufactured-home business has come so far in the last 20 years, making actually very attractive homes, some of them simple (see above) and some of them quite sophisticated and large. They don’t have to be boring eyesores. And they’re often extremely comfortable and ingenious in their uses of spaces.

With the arrival of 3-D manufacturing in general, this concept is where most all industries, not just housing, are going these days — and if manufactured homes can cut the costs of housing and bring in more developers, the city and state need to be open to these 21st century concepts about construction.

File under: Model idea.

UPDATE: Apparently lawmakers are mulling major zoning-law changes to make it easier to build within city/town squares. The Globe is also pushing that bill’s passage.

Boston condos

Boston condos

Despite predictions, inventory of homes for sale continues to fall in Mass.

Boston condos

Boston condos

As they say, hope springs eternal.

Heading into the spring real-estate season, many realtors predicted, or hoped, that the low inventory problems facing the market might ease a bit. The thinking went like this: Surely, potential sellers were seeing how they could fetch really great prices if they put their homes up for sale. So we’d probably see a stronger sales season this spring.

Well, it didn’t happen. The latest April data from the Massachusetts Association of Realtors shows inventory continuing to fall last month, amid high demand for homes and, consequently, escalating prices.

There’s indeed been “pockets of improvement” on the inventory front, but certainly not an overall improvement, that’s for sure.

From MAR’s press release this morning:

There were 3,221 detached single-family homes sold this April, which was down 7.2 percent from the 3,472 homes sold the same time last year. On a month-to-month basis, home sales were up 17.3 percent from 2,746 homes sold this past March.

The median selling price for single-family home in April was $320,000 which was up 2.3 percent from $312,750 in April 2013. …

There were 1,496 condominiums sold this past April, a decrease of 2.7 percent from the 1,537 condos sold the same time last year. …

The median selling price for condominiums in April was $318,900 which was up 11.7 percent from the $285,500 median price in April 2013.

The inventory of single-family homes as of April 30, 2014 decreased 12 percent from April 2013 (19,240 listings in 2014 from 21,858 listings in 2013) which translates into 4.6 months of supply in April 2014. This is down from 5.5 months of supply last year and up from 4.3 months in March. While this was the 26th straight month of inventory decreases, this was the smallest gap in the downward trend since June 2012.

The inventory of condominiums on the market in April was down 23.7 percent compared to the year before (5,156 listings in 2014 from 6,757 listings in 2013) …

Emphasis added above to show that, yes, there is a sign of improvement. Still, well, you get the picture.

Fyi: The S&P Case-Shiller Price Index came out yesterday. Its basic conclusion: Home price increases across the nation are starting to slow a bit. That’s good news for those trying to buy homes. Scroll down and you’ll see that the Boston area’s single-family prices increased by 8.2 percent in the first quarter of 2014, compared to a year ago.

UPDATE: The Warren Group has also released its numbers, showing a decline in sales last month (verifying MAR’s data) and yet a declining rate of price increases (confirming the S&P Case-Shiller data).

Area housing boom now spreads beyond I-495

Boston condos

Boston condos

Here’s a Globe story with some interesting statistics about how hot the Cambridge market has become these days, including sale prices now routinely exceeding asking prices and for-sale homes lasting only eight days on the market.

But here’s the thing: The boom is now extending out past 495 and hitting places like Lunenburg, which is now showing many of the same buy-‘em-fast traits seen in Cambridge.

File under: Et tu, Lunenburg?

Are more homes finally coming on the market in Massachusetts?

Boston condos

Boston condos

Here’s some very good news for those worried about the low number of homes for sale in Massachusetts, a problem that has recently led to wild price escalations as demand outstrips supply:

The Massachusetts Association of REALTORS® (MAR) reported today that pending home sales for single-family homes had its biggest April since MAR began tracking pending home sales in January 2004. Condominiums also went up again in April compared to the same month in 2013.

Pending sales figures (also called homes under agreement) are a leading indicator of actual housing sales in Massachusetts for the following 2-3 months.

“The spring real estate market started to gain momentum in April as buyers put homes under agreement in record numbers,” said 2014 MAR President Peter Ruffini, regional vice president at Jack Conway & Co. “We’re beginning to see inventory expanding in pockets across the state and it’s a trend that needs to continue to meet the strong buyer demand.”

Fyi: Looking at the same MAR data, Scott notes how median condo prices are now almost at the level of single-family homes in Massachusetts. The obvious drivers: The recent desire by many homeowners to live in urban areas, led largely by empty nesters, and investors driving up prices in cities like Boston and Cambridge.