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Fall is the New Spring in Real Estate

Courtesy of Andrea Brambila - Inman News.

      

Record-low mortgage rates, skyrocketing buyer demand, and shrinking inventory have pushed the housing market's busy season forward through at least the end of the year.

Record-low mortgage interest rates, the increased need for more spacious, multifunctional homes during the coronavirus pandemic, and timelines that no longer necessarily revolve around the start of the school year have fueled homebuyer demand so much that fall is looking more like a new spring in the housing market this year.

“This spring was like no other,” Brian Rubenstein, senior director of mortgage at online lender Ally Home, told Inman in a phone interview. “The pandemic and the market dislocations were quite unprecedented.”

Due to the pandemic, the Federal Reserve has kept interest rates low in an effort to shore up a faltering economy, and rates for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages have been hovering around 3 percent. This week, National Association of Realtors Chief Economist Lawrence Yun declared that 2020’s housing market was outperforming 2019’s housing market and predicted that this year’s home sales would end up higher than the 5.34 million homes sold in 2019.

Rubenstein doesn’t expect rates to rise and that means that the market will likely see what he called an “extended spring cycle.”

“We’ve begun to see a steady increase in people hitting the market, inventory remains lower than usual, but at the same time, with demand being so high, we’re seeing the average home price jump dramatically.

“For the first time we’re also seeing the new entrants into the market — first time homebuyers — not really being scared off by that. They’re really looking to settle in and really begin their home purchase journey, given everything that’s happened in the current landscape.”

Ally saw a delay in the spring market that lasted about two months. Whereas the market typically starts heating up in March as homebuyers figure out where they want to be for the following school year, this year it wasn’t until May that mortgage application volume started picking up, according to Rubenstein.

“Our app volume’s up close to 160 percent of where it was year over year. The purchase market has begun to pick up steam as the refi wave continues to dwindle a little bit,” he said.

Although Ally declined to share raw numbers, the company said the share of first-time homebuyers in July and August had grown to 60 percent of purchase volume, up from 42 percent of purchase volume in July and August 2019 — a 43 percent year-over-year increase.

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“I would expect us to continue to see a steady pick up in purchase volume through the remainder of this year and … [stay] buoyed by the spring market next year,” Rubenstein said.

While there is usually a dip in mortgage volume around the holidays, whether there is one this year is up in the air, in part because people are less likely to travel extensively until there’s a vaccine, according to Rubenstein.

“If folks are not open to traveling during the holiday season, it could present an opportunity for us to continue the continued climb in the mortgage space,” he said.

Additionally, companies that are currently having their employees telecommute could decide to extend that arrangement, allowing people to ditch their previous commutes and “re-tether” themselves to an area that’s more important to them because it’s closer to relatives or a particular school, according to Rubenstein.

“It could help perpetuate … the late spring market through the fall, through the winter, into the following spring,” he said.

Because school is unlikely to be solely in-person, that could encourage families to move around more as well.

“If the caregiver or parent is remote, and the child is either remote, or there are going to be multiple options in the future for children to facilitate learning, whether it’s through virtual or e-learning, that provides a lot more flexibility optionality for folks when they’re making home purchase decisions,” Rubenstein said.

“People are going to be thinking about that probably in a different way, given the landscape of the environment. I think that could help further stimulate this market that we’re seeing now and continue on at least through some point next year.”

Real estate data firm CoreLogic saw home prices rise 5.5 percent year over year in July — the highest rate since 2018. Real estate brokerage Redfin saw home prices rise even more in the markets it operates in — 8.2 percent — canceling outa 6.9 percent increase in buyer purchasing power due to low mortgage rates. The firm attributed the price increases to a combination of low inventory and high buyer demand.

Instead of experiencing their usual fall decline, home prices will at least hold at their current “record high levels” for the next quarter, according to Mike Simonsen, CEO of housing market analytics firm Altos Research. Simonsen hosted a webinar Thursday titled “The Key Data to Watch Right Now in Real Estate.”

Source: Altos Research

“Normally where we are in late summer is the high and we’re starting to reduce prices before the end of the year. We don’t want to be stuck with a home in November that’s been on the market since July, so they get cut,” he said.

“[This year] our whole seasonal reset is way lower than a normal year. Twenty-five [or] 26 percent instead of 36 [or] 37 percent of homes are taking price reductions. That’s because there’s demand in the market. That’s homes getting listed and sold quickly. That’s multiple offers, and that says that the homes that are listed now in the prices that we’ve got now hold up for transactions that happen later in September, in October, November.”

        

Source: Altos Research

That demand is being met with shrinking inventory. Altos predicts the number of single-family homes for sale will continue to drop through the end of the year.

Source: Altos Research

“We had just a couple of weeks in March of climbing inventory in 2020, and then the rest of the year when normally we’d have all this inventory increasing, inventory dropped rapidly every week from April all the way through,” Simonsen said.

“It’ll be flat for a couple of weeks here in September and then you can expect the majority to pull back. The second week of January is when we get our inventory turn. It starts the new listings for the springtime. We may be at 378,000 homes for sale for the whole country. It’s insanely low. That would be half of what a normal January would start at and like a third of what a healthy market would be.”

Source: Altos Research

Altos expects that some homes will come on the market as the first six months of mortgage forbearance end for some homeowners at the end of September. At that point, some will decide to sell their homes, but most will re-extend their forbearance period so that it ends in March, which may mean new inventory in April, according to Simonsen. Still others who are currently in forbearance but not responding to their lenders may go into foreclosure on January 1 as the current foreclosure moratorium ends, or may decide to sell to avoid foreclosure, he added.

“Because prices are high, equity is at record levels, homes are moving fast, it seems unlikely that we’re going to get a wave of foreclosures, but more likely that we might have folks that say, ‘Well, I’m going to take my cash now,'” Simonsen said.

“For Realtors that communication of the opportunity to walk away with your cash pretty quickly because demand is high is a listing opportunity to take advantage of.”

In response to a post on Inman’s Coast to Coast Facebook page, real estate pros mostly expected the fall market to be as busy as their spring normally would be.

“The [Washington D.C.-Maryland-Virginia area] has been extremely busy,” wrote Don McGlynn, associate broker at Compass. “Low inventory is resulting in a price squeeze. Things would have to change drastically for that to slow down in the fall.”

“We are still seeing low inventory and multiple offers on many homes,” he added. “30 years in the business and I have never seen this before.” But, he added, “[R]eal estate is cyclical. I think when the pandemic is over we will see more homes coming on the market. It should lead to a more balanced market.”

Some agents and brokers anticipate staying busy, but predict low inventory will stymie sales.

“In the Chicagoland market as long as people don’t have to commute to an office to work in, we will continue to see homes selling in specific price points where home buyers can have the separate living spaces to accommodate the household needs for working and education as well as greater outdoor space,” wrote Andrea Geller, a broker at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Chicago.

“For the most part I haven’t had a lull and still continue to get new opportunities with new and past clients, which is giving me a good pipeline of business,” she added. “One of many [factors] choking up listings and some buys are the courts are so behind that sales that are a result of things like divorces or estate issues are on hold until the right to sell them is there.”

Glenn Phillips, CEO of Lake Homes Realty which operates in 30 states, anticipates “above-average buyer demand continuing, and the deal flow continuing to be limited by low inventory through the [f]all.”

But he predicts the repercussions of the pandemic to hit next year. “After the stimulus money runs out (sooner or later, even if there is another round), this tempo may change as the economic scars from the pandemic will become more obvious to the markets and the economy. The election outcomes will also influence the tempo of the market next year,” he wrote.

Tim Marsh (Owner | Broker)

Marsh Properties, Inc.

tim@bostonluxuryrealestate.com

(C) 617-548-7145

Interior Finishing Wrapping up for Pier 4 Luxury Condos

Courtesy of Bldup

About Pier 4 Phase II

130-140 Northern Avenue, Seaport DistrictBoston, MA

Tishman Speyer's second phase of their $500 million Pier 4 development project overlooking Boston Harbor. featuring a nine-story residential building containing 106 luxurious one-to-four-bedroom condominiums with 17,000 square feet of ground-floor retail. The building will feature a rooftop terrace and state-of-the-art amenities. Pier 4 will include a one-acre public waterfront park. A two-level underground parking garage will be located on site.

Each condominium at Pier 4 will feature private outdoor space; penthouse condominiums will also feature private roof decks. Pier 4 will offer the only Seaport residences surrounded by water on three sides. Resident amenities will include pet-friendly conveniences, an exclusive residents club, an expansive outdoor terrace, a seating and dining area with a fire pit, a luxury fitness center with state-of-the-art equipment, virtual golf, and on-site self-parking and valet.

On the ground floor of the residential building will be the Seaport's first farm-to-table restaurant. The restaurant will be operated by Kristin Canty, owner of Concord, MA's Woods Hill Table, and will have 140 seats, including a raw bar, along with a 40-seat patio. On the office building's ground floor will be a location of Tatte Bakery & Cafe over 3,600 square feet in size.

Boston had nation's worst rush-hour traffic congestion in 2018

By Tom Acitelli - Curbed Boston 

Boston drivers wasted an average of 164 hours in rush-hour traffic in 2018, the highest total among U.S. cities, according to a new report from research firm INRIX

The company analyzes millions of bits of data for its annual Global Traffic Scorecard. Boston always scores rather high, but this year the city appears to have rated particularly bad. 

For the first time, too, INRIX looked at commutes in terms of peak (slowest travel times) versus inter-peak (fastest point between morning and afternoon commutes) travel times. In Boston on average, commutes increased 27 percent during peak versus inter-peak hours.

There was a bit of good news in the report. “[I]n cities like Boston, Washington, D.C., and Chicago, a higher proportion of trips are taken via public transportation, walking, or cycling.” Any car trips then are more likely to be related to business, the report said—unlike in, say, Los Angeles, where everyone drives everywhere for everything. In fact, INRIX said that L.A. was the most car-dependent city of the top 10. 

A rundown of that top 10 is below. 

Perhaps its status as the U.S. city with the worst rush-hour traffic will drive Boston’s leaders to reconsider congestion pricing once again. Or maybe the T will be fare-free sooner rather than later.

Tim Marsh - Owner/Broker

Marsh Properties, Inc.

Demo Underway for St. Regis Residences in the Boston Seaport

Courtesy of BLDUP.  Latest Boston Real Estate Development News

 

Demolition of Whiskey Priest & The Atlantic Beer Garden along Boston's waterfront has begun to make way for the upcoming St. Regis Residences.  Once the bars have been cleared work will start on the 22 story tower that will hold 114 luxury residences. The project also calls for around 10,000 sf retail space and three levels of underground parking.  

Construction is expected to be complete in around 2 years.

About St. Regis Residences, Boston

150 Seaport Boulevard, Seaport DistrictBoston, MA

Upcoming 22-story mixed-use waterfront building in Boston's Seaport District. The St. Regis Residences, Boston will contain 114 residential condominiums. 10,700 square feet of ground and second level retail space and three levels of underground parking. The ground floor space will feature a signature restaurant. A Harborwalk extension will be built around the building. The project will be built at the present site of the Whiskey Priest and Atlantic Beer Garden waterfront restaurants. The following is a rendering of St. Regis Residences, Boston:

Fall vs. Spring - Debunking the Myth

Major Boston Developments: 9 Projects Transforming The City.

By tom Acitelli of Curbed Boston

Boston is famously in the midst of a building boom—and not a moment too soon given the cost of housing in the city

Here are nine major projects under construction that are not only transforming Boston’s built environment, but providing a real-time gauge of its real estate. How these go, so will likely go the commercial and residential markets overall.

1. Fenway Center

Massachusetts Turnpike
Boston, MA 02215

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Developers Meredith Management, Gerding Edlen, and TH Real Estate officially broke ground in late January 2018 on the five-building, 1.1 million-square-foot Fenway Center where Brookline and Commonwealth avenues meet.

The groundbreaking capped veritable eons of planning and readjustments for what’s become one of Boston’s most anticipated projects. Lead developer John Rosenthal of Meredith had been trying to build at the 4.5-acre site for nearly 20 years.

The infrastructural alchemy inherent in the project, which includes building over the Mass. Pike, as well as financing challenges had delayed it interminably.

All totaled, it’s expected to have around 650 housing units, 160,000 square feet of offices, 50,000 square feet of retail, 1,290 parking spaces, community space, a daycare center, bicycle storage, and a bike-share station.

The first phase includes two apartment buildings with 313 units total.

2. The Four Seasons Hotel and Private Residences One Dalton Street

1 Dalton St
Boston, MA 02199

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The Four Seasons Hotel and Private Residences One Dalton Street—a.k.a. One Dalton—is almost finished, according to developer Carpenter & Company.

Workers with Suffolk Construction have raised the condo and hotel tower to its 60th floor and have been adding about one and a half floors per week. That means it will soon reach its 61st and final floor any minute now.

When all is said and done, the 742-foot property will be the tallest new tower in Boston since 200 Clarendon opened in 1976. It’s already the city’s third-tallest building.

And, due to myriad reasons that include construction costs, a dearth of sites, and shadows, One Dalton will likely be the last Boston tower—the last New England tower—of more than 700 feet for a long, long while.

One Dalton is due to include 215 Four Seasons hotel rooms that the international hospitality firm will manage and 160 luxury condos (which Four Seasons will also service). The architect is a collaboration between Cambridge Seven Associates and Henry Cobb of Pei Cobb Freed. Cobb, incidentally, designed 200 Clarendon (formerly known as the Hancock).

One Dalton is expected to top off in July, and to start opening in March 2019.

3. Back Bay/South End Gateway

100 Clarendon St
Boston, MA 02116

Developer Boston Properties plans to build 1.26 million square feet of housing, offices, and retail over and around Back Bay Station (and to redevelop the garage at 100 Clarendon Street in the process). 

The Boston Planning & Development Agency signed off on the plans in November 2017, capping well over a year of wrangling, in particular because of the shadows it would likely cast. One of its three new towers is expected to reach 364 feet.

Boston Properties reached a deal with opponents concerned about the shadows just before the November vote. The developer will pay $3 million to opponents such as the Old South Church to mitigate the impact and a further $3 million to an affordable housing fund that Boston runs.

The project is envisioned as a kind of transformative gateway connecting Back Bay and the South End; and includes improvements to the station itself.

Rendering via Pelli Clarke Pelli/Boston Properties

4. The Hub on Causeway 

100 Legends Way
Boston, MA 02114

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Developers Boston Properties and Delaware North officially broke ground in January 2016 on the humongous project at the old Boston Garden site. It continues to unfold and is part of a forest of new development around North Station

Ultimately, what’s dubbed the Hub on Causeway will mean more than 1.5 million square feet of shops, restaurants, offices, hotel rooms, and residences, as well as an expansion of nearby TD Garden and transit improvements to North Station.

Phase I is expected to wrap in 2018 (it topped off in January). It includes flourishes such as the city’s largest supermarket; a 15-screen movie theater; 10,000 square feet of outdoor space for a new entrance to TD Garden and North Station; and 175,000 square feet of what the developers are calling “creative office space.”

Phase II will include a 440-unit, 38-floor residential tower and a 260-key, 10-floor micro-hotel; and Phase III is an office tower with a proposed height of 495 feet.

The Hub on Causeway under construction in March 2018.  Boston Globe via Getty Images

5. Bulfinch Crossing

100 Sudbury St
Boston, MA 02114

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The ongoing conversion of the 2,300-space garage at 50 Sudbury Street is expected to produce 812 residential units, 196 hotel rooms, 1.15 million square feet of office space, and 85,000 square feet of retail.

Dubbed Bulfinch Crossing, The conversion will produce six buildings with 2.9 million square feet total. (Here is a cool timelapse video of part of Government Center Garage being demolished.)

Interestingly, in the summer of 2017, HYM announced that 118 apartments in the project’s 45-story, 486-unit rental tower were going condo instead—likely a nod to Boston’s incandescent sales market. The HYM Investment Group, the developer behind the project, expects to finish that residential tower by 2020.

6. Winthrop Square Garage tower 

115 Devonshire St
Boston, MA 02109

The Boston Planning & Development Agency in mid-May 2018 approvedthe development of the former Winthrop Square Garage in the Financial District into a 690-foot tower of condos and offices.

The building will be one of the tallest new ones constructed in Boston since at least the mid-1970s, and the BPDA’s approval caps nearly two years of back and forth on its height and scope.

It was once slated to stretch to 775 feet, making it the second-tallest building in Boston—in New England—behind 200 Clarendon. As it looks now, the Winthrop Square tower will still rank among the 10 tallest in the city and the larger region.

But! The BPDA wants developer Millennium Partners to reexamine the 1.6 million-square-foot tower’s size and density before it can get building permits. Whether that reexamination leads to any (other) changes still remains to be seen, though.

As of early July 2018, the BPDA signoff appeared to be the tower’s last major hurdle to development. The garage itself has been demolished in preparation for construction.

Rendering via Handel Architects

7. Omni Boston Seaport Hotel

370-430 Summer St
Boston, MA 02210

What will be the fourth-largest hotel in Boston got officially underway in late May 2018 with a groundbreaking that drew VIPs such as Gov. Charlie Baker and Mayor Marty Walsh.

The $550 million Omni Boston Seaport Hotel will plant 1,055 rooms on Summer Street across from the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center in the Seaport District.

The project goes back to 2017, when the Massachusetts Port Authority designated a development team that includes Omni Hotels & Resorts to build on a state-owned parcel in order to boost the room count in an area still underserved hospitality-wise—despite the convention center being right there.

The 21-story complex will include 100,000 square feet of meeting and event space of its own, including the largest hotel ballroom in the Seaport District. Interestingly, too, six local nonprofits will share in the hotel’s profits; and the developers pointed out in the spring of 2018 that the Omni inn will create between 700 and 1,000 permanent jobs.

There is one potential snag for the whole affair, which is supposed to be finished in 2020: Money management giant Fidelity Investments has sued the developers over the name. Fidelity’s own Seaport Hotel opened in the neighborhood 20 years ago.

The two sides continue to wrangle as of early July.

8. EchelonSeaport

133 Seaport Blvd
Boston, MA 02210

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Developer Cottonwood Management officially broke ground in June 2017on this 1.33 million-square-foot project on 3.5 acres of very, very valuable land at B Street and Seaport Boulevard. Sales started about 10 months later (and the units ain’t cheap). 

The three-building project is set to have 717 apartments and condos. Its 447 condos will constitute the largest single amount of for-sale housing in the Seaport District. A third tower will have apartments.

EchelonSeaport will include 50,000 square feet of in-house amenities—among them two outdoor pools, a fitness center, and two so-called sky lounges—and a 19,000-square-foot landscaped plaza accessible to the public and 125,000 square feet of restaurants and retail over two levels.

There will also be enough parking in two garages for each condo to have one space. 

The towers are expected to start opening in late 2019.

9. Suffolk Downs 

525 William F McClellan Hwy
Boston, MA 02128

The Boston Planning and Development Agency in early February 2018signed off on plans for two office buildings at the site of the shuttered Suffolk Downs racetrack on the Boston-Revere line off the busy, busy Blue Line.

That was the second key approval the site received toward the start of 2018, with the state expediting an environmental green light for redevelopment there. And the city’s zoning appeals board green-lighted the office-building construction shortly after the BPDA approval. 

Why all the thumbs-up? Because if one site in the Boston area is going to host Amazon’s second headquarters, it’s the 161-acre East Boston parcel. The area was among the 20 finalists for that second HQ that Amazon named shortly after the start of 2018.

Come what may, Suffolk Downs developer HYM Investment Group plans to build big, big, big at the juicily located site, near as it is to two Blue Line stops and Logan Airport. With or without Amazon, HYM plans on 16.5 million square feet of new residential, retail, office, hotel, and lab space built out over as long as two decades.

Eleven million square feet of that would go in Boston and 5.5 million in Revere.

Rendering via HYM Group

Kenmore Square's Citgo sign development to include two new buildings

by Tom Acitelli of Curbed Boston

Commonwealth Building  Renderings courtesy of Related Beal

Developer Related Beal has filed detailed plans with the Boston Planning & Development Agency that would add two new buildings to Kenmore Square—one of which Boston’s most famous sign would bestride. 

The plans include incorporating 660 Beacon Street, which has been holding up the famed 60-foot-by-60-foot Citgo sign since 1965, into one of the new buildings. 

The prolific Related Beal bought 660 Beacon and several other buildings in the area in 2016, touching off speculation that the sign was doomed. 

Organized opposition to its demolition arose even before the sale, when former owner Boston University announced it was putting the buildings on the block. Related Beal and the oil concern behind the sign struck a deal in March 2017 intended to keep the clarion beaming for decades.

And it will likely do so from atop a major office development, as the recently filed details make plain.

Plans include construction of an eight-story property called the Commonwealth Building at the corner of Commonwealth Avenue and Deerfield Street. It would have 130,000 square feet of modern office space, 10,000 square feet of retail, 60 underground parking spaces, and rooftop terraces with what Related Beal describes in a release as “unmatched views of Kenmore Square and the Charles River.”

Beacon Building

As for 660 Beacon, it would be renovated and incorporated into a 143,000-square-foot Beacon Building, per the developer, “an adaptive re-use development that will include more than 110,000 square feet of re-positioned office space and 18,000 square feet of retail space.”

Related Beal expects the office space to go quickly in the Boston-area’s rather scorching office market. It cited a recent brokerage report which concluded that “[office] vacancies in Boston and Cambridge will remain at or near all-time lows.”

The developer wants to start construction during the first three months of 2019. Stay tuned.