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7 surprising truths of the real estate boom

Six years after the depths of the Great Recession, not everything is as you might expect in the Boston market.


At the low point of the Great Recession, in early 2009, talk around Boston was of foreclosures and fear. Six years later, the conversation has flipped. But not everything is what you might expect, says Cassidy Murphy of the Warren Group, a real estate tracking firm in Boston.

1. Over the last five years, the hottest condo market in Boston isn’t Jamaica Plain, or the Seaport, or Charlestown.


Median Condo Sales prices, 2015 vs. 2010

> Dorchester +128.2%

> East Boston +64.9%

> Allston +50.4%

> South Boston +50.3%

> Chelsea +42.4%

Dorchester’s boom is due in part to simple market economics. “Dorchester started really low,” Murphy says. In 2010, median sales prices of condos were only at $149,000. This year, they’ve jumped to $340,000. “Dorchester,” Murphy says, “has the same things that everybody wants. It’s got amenities and transportation. It’s located close to [downtown] Boston.”

2. Last year, more condos sold in Cambridge than any other Greater Boston community (except Boston itself). But its 98 percent increase in median sales price since 2000 doesn’t even put it at the top of this list.



Median Condo Sales prices, 2015 vs. 2000

> East Boston +281%

> Dorchester +172%

> Brighton +141.3%

> Jamaica Plain +117.5%

> Brookline +115.6%

“East Boston has had a lot of inventory come online,” Murphy says. And seen an influx of artists. “They say to see where gentrification happens next, you follow the artists,” she says. “If you want to know what’s hot next, find out where they’re all hanging out.”

3. These 10 popular suburbs saw median home sales prices rebound the fastest after the recession. (Note: Boston, Somerville, Cambridge, and Brookline excluded.)


Median Home Sales prices, 2015 vs. 2005


> Newton +47.4%

> Arlington +35.2%

> Lexington +31.9%

> Needham +28.1%

> Concord +26.9%

> Watertown +24.4%

> Winchester +23.7%

> Wellesley +23.6%

> Bedford +22.1%

> Belmont +18.1%

“These are towns that have done well and will always do well,” Murphy says. But they can’t keep rising like this forever. “It’s a gradual coming back and the numbers get bigger and better every year,” she says. “But at some point, it plateaus.”

4. Median home sales, comparing 2015 with 2010, are up in many Greater Boston communities, even in those not historically considered hot spots.


Median home sales, 2015 vs. 2010

> Everett +36.4%

> Lynn +31.8%

> Malden +30.4%

> Revere +25.5%

> Lowell +20.8%

“We’re seeing people moving out from the city and wanting to still be

closer to the city,” Murphy says. “And that moves into some of those less traditional towns.”

5. But the prices in those five places — while significantly higher than 2010 — still have not returned to 2005 levels.


Median home sales prices, 2015 vs. 2005

> Lowell -16.5%

> Revere -14.7%

> Everett -12.3%

> Lynn -12.1%

> Malden -3.7%

In this way, the impact of the Great Recession still lingers in many places near Boston. “There was more job loss, more wage stagnation, more problems being able to save money,” Murphy says. “So when you start low, and fall lower, it’s hard to come back to low.”

6. In these 10 communities, median home sales prices are down by more than 20 percent compared with a decade ago.



Median home sales prices, 2015 vs. 2005

> Fairhaven -26.3%

> North Attleborough -25.3%

> Brockton -24.9%

> Westport -23.6%

> New Bedford -22.9%

> Halifax -22.6%

> Somerset -22.4%

> Lawrence -21.7%

> Rehoboth -21.5%

> Whitman -20.7%

7. In the end, the boom appears to be very localized. In three of the six Boston-area counties, median sales prices are down compared with 2005. They have not returned to pre-crash prices. And they are only up significantly in one place: Suffolk County.


Median Home Sales prices, 2015 vs. 2005

> Suffolk County +10.7%

> Middlesex County +4.6%

> Norfolk County +0.5%

> Essex County -5.2%

> Plymouth County -10.4%

> Bristol County -20.4%


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