K yle Costello and his fiancee, Sefira Bell-Masterson, have been looking for a condominium in Jamaica Plain since spring, only to be thwarted by a blast from the past: an overheated market.
The young couple placed an offer in August on one condo listed at $450,000 only to be outbid. Now they are thinking about holding off until spring for more properties to choose from, but are worrying about waiting too long.
“We don’t want to overpay” in order to outbid competitors, said Costello, 25, a marketing director who currently rents an apartment in Jamaica Plain with his fiancee. At the same time, though, “We want to get in when the getting is good.”
The Boston area condominium market is in full throttle again, fueled by low interest rates, increasing confidence among buyers, and tight supply. After several down years during which they were in the catbird seat, prospective buyers are now facing competing pressures: having to act quickly while also not paying too much.
“It does feel like a lot of pressure to view a place and make a decision so quickly,” said Michael Perez, 34, who is looking for a condominium in the Cambridge-Arlington area with his wife, Sara Cohen. “It does feel the longer we wait we will get priced out of Boston.”
Price and sales are indeed on the upswing. The median sales price for condos in Greater Boston was $380,000 in August, 3.5 percent higher than it was during the same month last year, according to the Greater Boston Association of Realtors. Sales of condos during that period surged 23.1 percent, to 1,190 units in August.
John Ranco, a senior sales associate with Hammond Residential Real Estate in the South End, said the condo market is particularly strong because it offers buyers a wider price range than single-family homes — making it appealing to first-time owners and empty nesters in particular. Rising rents in Boston are also pushing more tenants to consider owning.
In addition to downtown Boston, Ranco said, the city neighborhoods of South Boston, Dorchester, and Charlestown are busy. Sellers can quickly find a buyer and some are getting multiple offers above the original asking price. Buyers, meanwhile, are often surprised by the level of competition, he said, and have to be ready to act quickly if they find a condo they like.
“You have to be prepared to purchase in that kind of environment,” Ranco said. “There are going to be several people at the same time wanting the same thing you want.’’
Indeed, the average time it took to sell a condo in Greater Boston fell to 76 days in August, an 18.4 percent drop compared with a year ago, according to the real estate association. The inventory of available properties, meanwhile, fell to 2,433 condos, 42.3 percent below last year.
Jamaica Plain has among the quickest turnaround times in the area — just 38 days, on average, so far this year, according to the online brokerage firm Redfin.com.
“You got properties that are in prime locations, nice finishes, marketed well; they are going fast and the dollar for square foot is remarkably high,’’ said real estate agent William Brokhof. “In general the condo market is red-hot here.”
Among his clients are five couples, including Costello and his fiancee, who are looking for homes in Jamaica Plain right now. He advises them to be prepared to make an offer if they find a place they like. At the same time, he also warns potential buyers to be cautious, for example, by vetting the condo association before completing a deal, making sure its members have up-to-date paperwork, insurance, and finances.
“It is one of the most overlooked aspects of buying a condo,’’ said Brokhof, an agent with the Boston Home Team in Jamaica Plain. “A lot of them don’t keep proper books.”
In another busy market, South Boston, the median price for condos escalated to $376,000 between January and July, 5 percent higher than a year ago, according to Redfin.
Lynn Hollenbeck, an agent with Seaport Realty Group in South Boston, said the spring season was the strongest she has seen in five years and the market is punishing people who dally.
“The prices are not going down any further,” she said. “You are going to end up paying more and more money.”
Greg Kadetsky doesn’t need to be told. The 31-year-old South Boston resident is looking to buy and can’t believe the level of competition he’s up against.
“You see something go on the market and it is gone in two days,’’ Kadetsky said.
Alex Coon, a Redfin market manager, said that buyers surprised by the competition should at least be consoled by the fact that mortgage rates are at historic lows, helping to make homes more affordable.
“Demand is robust because of the fact that money is cheap,’’ he said.
In Arlington, Somerville, and Cambridge, Perez said he’s finding properties that are priced well, in good condition, and have outdoor space are moving quickly. Those left on the market need work or have a shortcoming, such as no off-street parking.
Perez and his wife currently rent in Somerville, but need more space now that they have a baby girl. He’s hoping the fall selling season will pick up over the next few weeks as more properties come on the market.
“We don’t want to feel rushed into making a big decision,” Perez said.