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Sales surge for condos in Boston’s core areas

Boston’s robust downtown condominium market is getting hotter, with sales up more than 25 percent in the third quarter and the median selling price near a peak level, according to figures scheduled to be released Thursday.

The report by LINK, a Boston data-tracking company, says condo sales in 12 core areas of the city totaled 1,043 between July and September, a 26.3 percent increase compared with the same period last year.

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The median price swelled to $486,000, or 6.17 percent more than during the third quarter of 2011 and the second-highest median ever — after the second quarter of this year, when the price hit $511,000, LINK said.

The downtown market suffered only slight price drops during the housing downturn, especially compared with values statewide.

As defined by LINK, the downtown Boston market encompasses 12 neighborhoods, including the Back Bay, Beacon Hill, Fenway, the North End, the South End, and South Boston.

Jamaica Plain, Allston, Dorchester, and Mattapan are excluded from the tabulations.

The surge in downtown sales is being fueled by low interest rates and rising consumer confidence, real estate specialists say. Prices are escalating mostly because there are relatively few condos available, increasing competition among prospective buyers.

Long-term, however, the market’s growth could be limited if inventory continues to fall short of demand. Many owners have been reluctant to list their properties, opting to wait for prices to climb. It is unclear whether these latest figures will change some minds.

“If anybody is thinking about a sale, their timing is great,” said David Stenberg, manager of Boston operations for Hammond Residential Real Estate. “We clearly turned the corner, and we are in a much different cycle.”

In fact, more downtown condos were sold between July and September than during any other third quarter since 2004, when the Massachusetts real estate market was near its last apex, said Debra Taylor Blair, president of LINK.

“What is so remarkable is that sales and the average and median are up,’’ Taylor Blair said.

Kevin Ahearn, president of Otis and Ahearn Real Estate in Boston, said sales are on the rise at all price levels. He noted that about 37 percent of buyers are paying cash, which makes it easier for a deal to go through. Sellers, bolstered by the improving environment, are becoming more aggressive in pricing and negotiations, he said.

“People are very surprised by it,” Ahearn said of prospective buyers considering making offers on properties. “You have to be very quick, and you have to be very decisive.”

Sales in luxury buildings, which include valet and concierge services as well as other amenities, also were strong during the third quarter, LINK reported. The number of luxury sales rose to 209, a 18.75 percent increase compared with the same three months in 2011. The median price increased to $699,000, up 5.51 percent.

The luxury building 45 Province is one of the high-end residential developments enjoying a burst of business. Audrey ­Epstein Reny, director for the developer, Abbey Group, said about 70 percent of the condos in the 137-unit building have sold since 2009. This year will probably set a record for sales, she said, and prices also are higher. Last year, 27 units were sold, with a third of them going for more than $1 million. By comparison, 41 condos have been sold this year, with 70 percent priced higher than $1 million, Epstein Reny said.

Jenifer B. McKim can be reached at jmckim@globe.com. Follow her on twitter
@jbmckim.
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