(For the statistics, please click the Newsletter No. 4 link to the right to view)

By Sally Ackerman Eaton:

Rachael Burger, the Director of  Information and Community Outreach at
ePlace, has put together statistics for the purposes of comparing neighborhoods  within Boston, nearby cities Cambridge and Brookline, several suburban cities,  and some of the suburbs west and northwest of Boston. 
Our report includes statistics that demonstrate changes from 2005
(considered the peak of real estate values in the last decade) to 2011, as well
as the change in values from 2009 to 2010 and from 2010 to 2011. Most reports of  real estate statistics are aggregated to combine all the communities in Boston  or the eastern region of Massachusetts, whereas Rachael’s table of statistics illuminates the wide variation in the values of different communities.  Our region is much more diverse than one would think from media reports. 
This is ultimately good news for our economy.
Our table provides median prices for condominiums and single family
homes as reported by the Multiple Listing Service.   There is a lot of data to think about.  For the purposes of this discussion, I will limit my comments to the trends in the median values of single family homes  (the columns in the middle of the table).

It is striking to observe that from 2005-2011 the areas of Boston
with the lowest property values (and incomes) saw the greatest erosion of
equity, while the wealthiest areas saw large gains. Specifically, East Boston
lost 42%, Roxbury lost 31%, and Dorchester lost 21%.  OUCH!!!  Meanwhile, the  single family owners of the South End saw a 50% gain, those on Beacon Hill saw  an 11% gain, and Back Bay saw a 39% gain.   YIKES!!!

 All the suburban cities, with the exception of Somerville (up 10%),
which is bolstered by the universities, saw values decline from 2005-2011.  For many, there was some improvement  between 2009-2010, but some retrenchment between 2010 and 2011.  Over the seven year span, cities with lower median values saw the largest erosion. Everett fell by 37%, Malden by 24%, and Newton, with the highest median value of $760,000, fell by only 6%.

 Among the suburbs Arlington (up 2%), Lexington (up 3%), Wellesley
(down 1%) saw the most price stability for the period from 2005 to 2011.  Belmont also showed some stability (down 2%).  Sparsely populated
towns, such as Lincoln where only 40 homes sold in 2011, showed volatility.  For the seven year period, Lincoln fell by 22%, went up 23% in 2009-2010, and fell again 8% from 2010-2011.  For most towns, there was some recovery reflected in median prices for  2009-2010 and some retrenchment in 2010-2011.

I believe that the towns that showed the most price stability have  a large inventory of homes that are around the median price.   Although surely there are high end houses in Arlington, Lexington, Wellesley, and Belmont, there are also many neighborhoods where the lots are  small. The homes on these lots may be improved, but they are not usually torn down. Towns like Lincoln and Weston remained farming communities for a longer  period.  Thus, they are  comparatively land rich with many two acre lots and attractive to those who want  to build estate-like homes.  A growing proportion of homes for sale in these communities are at very high prices.  

Due to space constraints of a newsletter, my comments about the
housing statistics are brief.  I do not anticipate that we shall see a marked change in real estate values in the next few years.  Should you desire,
I can do a more in-depth analysis of any of the towns in this report. Please
contact me for more information.

(The data is sourced from MLSPIN and is the 2011 Median Home Prices and Number of Sales for Selected Communities within and near Route 128 and price change since  2005 peak)