THE LISTING FOR an early spring open house promised a third-floor Brickbottom loft in Somerville with a view of the Prudential Tower. But as prospective buyers toured the unit in the industrial building-turned-condos on a raw, rainy Sunday afternoon, clouds obscured the Boston skyline. Instead, a wall of large windows framed nearby train tracks and the McGrath Highway overpass. The gray, gritty panorama didn’t diminish interest in the loft priced at $430,000. Far from it. Serious customers came with their pre-approved mortgages. Young couples. Singles with parents in tow. Investors. They saw, they admired the hardwood floors, they commented on the loft’s only bathroom beside the kitchen, they imagined how they would convert the wide-open, 1,519-square-foot space into comfortable living quarters, and they lingered in front of the windows. For many checking out the loft, the train tracks were more valuable than a view of the Pru.
If all goes as planned, Green Line trains will start chugging along the same route in 2017 with a stop designated for Brickbottom. Would-be buyers are betting rumbling subway trains will translate into real estate ka-ching down the line.
The next day, realtor Louise Olson received three offers on the loft, including one with a personal note for the seller. The note writers, Eric Woods and his girlfriend, Bonnie Le, mentioned the appeal of the artist-friendly Brickbottom area, the bustle of nearby Union Square, and their excitement about the Green Line Extension. Having made offers on two other properties in the area, including another Brickbottom loft, and having been knocked around and out by bidding wars, the couple hoped their note and offer of $451,000, $21,000 above asking, would give them the advantage. It worked, and Woods, 26, and Le, 24, move in at the end of May.
“It was a huge relief,” says Woods. “Even at that price point, we still weren’t sure it was going to be accepted, given the market.”
When it comes to Somerville real estate these days, one way or another, people expect a bit of a ride. With 30 years of experience doing deals in Somerville and Cambridge, Olson wasn’t surprised that the planned subway made the property more enticing and that it took an offer substantially above asking to beat out the competition. “There are a lot of people who are speculating that the values are only going to go up as the Green Line Extension comes through and Union Square develops further,” she says. When the extension is completed with six new stops (and an Assembly Square station is added to the Orange Line this fall), 85 percent of Somerville will be within a half-mile of a transit center, up from the current 15 percent. Perfect for the brave new Walk Scoring, bike-sharing world we live in. “A lot of younger professionals see cars more as a burden than a privilege,” says Woods, who works in Cambridge for the car-swapping company RelayRides.
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