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Boston real estate now | Scott Van Voorhis

A pricey entry for Chelsea’s rental market

Highlights from the Boston Real Estate Now blog.

What will probably be the most expensive apartment building Chelsea has ever seen will open this April.

The developers of One North of Boston are promoting amenities and finishes like you would get in a fancy new downtown Boston rental tower but at half the cost.

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The $45 million apartment development touts stainless steel appliances, hardwood floors, quartz countertops, an outdoor pool and firepit, hip fitness facility — all the typical jazz and then some.

“I would compare it to any new Class A product coming up in Boston,” Damian Szary, a principal of the joint venture between Gate Residential and Trandel Corp., told me recently.

Chelsea has worked long and hard to shake off its old reputation as a corrupt and decaying postindustrial backwater, with the city’s collapse into bankruptcy back in 1991 triggering state intervention and marking the start of a long and impressive comeback.

Still, is there a market in Chelsea for $1,850-a-month two-bedrooms and $2,450-a-month three-bedrooms, let alone studios renting for just under $1,400?

Gate Residential, builders of the successful Maxwell Green apartments in Somerville, obviously thinks so.

And they will soon get some hard data from the market as well, launching the preleasing of One North’s 230 units on Monday, with an onsite model unit for prospective tenants to look at. Plans for a second phase, featuring another 232 units, are already in the works.

Cooling hotspots?

The real estate market in Cambridge and Somerville is red hot, right? Or is it really as hot as we have been led to believe?

Amid all the hoopla over rising prices, here’s a number that should give pause to even the most ardent real estate bulls. The number of expired or canceled listings in our state’s top hipster hotspots rose sharply in the last three months of 2013 compared with the fourth quarter of 2012, according to Bill Wendel at the Real Estate Cafe in Cambridge.

Somerville saw 50 canceled or expired listings of homes and condos during the last three months of 2013, up from 37 during the fourth quarter of 2012.

Cambridge also saw a jump in the number of sellers striking out, rising to 62 during the final months of 2013 from 59 the year before.

What’s to blame?

One factor may be bloated seller expectations. Wendel sees evidence, especially in Somerville, of holding out for unrealistic prices.

And certainly some of these would-be sellers may also be pulling their homes off the market in order to list again in the spring in hopes of getting their price then.

As of Jan. 7, there were eight homes and condos on the market in Somerville, up from six the same time last year.

What’s telling, though, are the prices. The median price of the eight Somerville listings during the first week of January tops $700,000, with four of them on market in the $800,000 to $1 million-plus range, according to stats Wendel shipped over.

That’s compared with a median price of just over $300,000 for the six Somerville listings that were on the market during the first week of January 2013.

Go figure.

Think spring housing deals

OK, spring seems a long way off. It looks like the North Pole outside the window in Natick.

But if you are planning on buying a house this spring, it makes sense to start prepping now, a top mortgage expert advises.

Buyers can expect cutthroat competition and multiple bids for the most promising homes when the spring market returns. And buyers can boost their competitive position by getting fully approved for a mortgage now, rather than just doing a cursory preapproval, according to John Wheaton, a California mortgage broker.

Wheaton made his remarks in an online forum hosted by Redfin.

While getting preapproved can take just a half-hour, getting the real thing — a fully underwritten mortgage approval — can take 10 days or more. And that’s after you have hunted down all the pay stubs, tax forms, and other documentation that is required.

Scott Van Voorhis is a freelance writer who specializes in real estate. For the full Boston Real Estate Now blog, visit www.boston.com/realestate.
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