How the Boston real estate market has changed since your parents bought their home

The Boston real estate market has obviously changed dramatically in the last few decades, from the way we buy to how much we spend. But does that just justify inflation or are there other factors at work? Is it actually harder to get a home now than it was in 1970’s 80’s or 90′? Lets look at some major ways the  Boston housing industry has changed in the last 20-50 years. 

Cost vs. Income

In 1970 first time home buyers were spending 1.7 times their annual income on a home but now we spend closer to 2.7 times. Boston condo for sale prices increase for sure but so does how much we’re willing to pay for it.

We’re renting longer.

In 1970, most home buyers rented about 2.6 years before buying but in the last couple years that average rental time was over 6 years before buying a Boston condo.

Down payment has decreased.

In the 1970s and even 1980s, buyers were required to put down at least 10% on a home but today the average is only 6% and about 14% for repeat buyers

Starter homes have decreased.

Around the mid-century, starter homes were everywhere on the market, but today that number has decreased 17% EACH YEAR making it even harder for first time home buyers to find a starter Boston condo for sale

Fewer loan options.

Before the 2008 crash, there were multiple ways to buy a Boston Seaport condo and now it’s just back to a fixed rate or adjustable rate, which is probably better since those creative loan options are what got us into the mess in the first place.

Young adults are not scared to buy.

Buying a home in the 1970s was a huge undertaking and seems scary and downright overwhelming but with so much more information on the Internet, buyers can feel more confident in their purchase and knowledge of the process.

The Internet

In 1995, only 2% of homebuyers used the internet to look for a downtown Boston condo for sale. while today that number is 90%! That’s probably the most significant number so far.

Manufactured homes have increased.

In 1970 only 1.18 million people lived in manufactured homes compared to today’s 22 million, making this the ideal “affordable” housing.

Millennials are buying.

Millennials are the ones buying the homes now. It was Gen X in 2015 and baby boomers before that.

The invention of Assisted Living.

Before 1985, assisted living didn’t really exist and nursing homes were for people recovering or with health problems, but today, active adult and assisted living places are on the rise dramatically.

city living.

In the 1950s, people moved out of big cities and into the suburbs and today over half the population of the U.S. lives in suburban neighborhoods.

Rural living has not changed.

Probably one of the only things that hasn’t changed is people living in rural counties. In 2000 about 45 million people lived in rural counties and in 2016 that number only had a 3% increase.

The surge of rental homes.

AirBNB and similar websites have launched allowing short term rentals to skyrocket. So much so that many cities are putting restrictions on how these rentals can be managed. 

Home Improvements on the rise.

in 2018, people spent over $340 billion on upgrades, more than any other year so far but this is also attuned to higher labor and lumber costs as well.

Increase in homelessness.

Since the 1980s, homelessness has rapidly increased to where there are at least a half a million people living on the streets. 

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Author Profile

John Ford
John Ford

Over the course of 20 years in the Boston downtown real estate market, John represented and sold numerous, condominiums, investment and development properties in Greater Boston and in the surrounding suburbs

In addition to representing Boston condo buyers and sellers, John is currently one of the most recognized Boston condo blog writers regarding Boston condominiums and residential real estate markets. John's insights and observations about the Boston condo market have been seen in a wide variety of the most established local & national media outlets including; Banker and Tradesman, Boston Magazine The Boston Globe, The Boston Herald and NewsWeek and Fortune magazine, among others.


For over 24 years, John Ford, of Ford Realty Inc., has been actively involved in the real estate industry. He started his career in commercial real estate with a national firm Spaulding & Slye and quickly realized that he had a passion for residential properties. In 1999, John entered the residential real estate market, and in 2000 John Started his own firm Ford Realty Inc. As a broker, his clients have come to love his fun, vivacious, and friendly attitude. He prides himself on bringing honesty and integrity to the entire home buying and selling process. In addition to helping buyers and sellers, he also works with rental clients. Whether you’re looking to purchase a new Boston condo or rent an apartment, you’ll quickly learn why John has a 97% closing rate.


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John Ford and his staff can be reached at 617-595-3712 or 617-720-5454. Please feel free to stop by John's Boston Beacon Hill office located at 137 Charles Street.

John Ford
Ford Realty Inc
137 Charles Street
Boston, Ma 02114



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