How I bought a house in Boston’s affluent Fort Leonard Wood neighborhood
Posted On July 18, 2021
By David LeventhalThe Wall Street Journal/ReutersWhen you want a house like this, you need a ton of money to get it.
For decades, it was easy to buy a single-family house in this part of Boston’s upscale North End, which boasts one of the city’s highest median household incomes.
That has changed, however, with the influx of single- and mixed-income families in the last decade.
A recent report by the National Association of Realtors said the median value of a single family home in Boston is $2.7 million, about three times the national average.
The new boom is coming from a new generation of young buyers, who are seeking cheaper housing, lower rents and more choices in neighborhoods like Fort Leonard Woods, which has been on the market for years.
The price of a house is just one factor in the market.
The number of listings is also at an all-time high, with more than 1,000 in the Greater Boston area, according to data from Realtor.com.
The rise in demand from younger buyers is part of a broader shift toward smaller homes, which have become more common in the past decade.
The median home size in Boston grew from 2,700 square feet in 2009 to 3,900 square feet by 2017, according the Realton report.
The trend has continued.
By contrast, the median size of a two-bedroom home in the North End is less than half that size.
In Fort Leonard, there are only one or two homes that are three-bedroom or four-bedroom, said John Tuckerman, a broker and real estate consultant who is president of the North East Realty Group.
That means many of the older homes in the neighborhood are now getting demolished to make way for taller, more expensive homes.
The average house in Fort Leonard is now 2,000 square feet, down from 2.7 acres in 2009, according Realtons.
The area is also experiencing a housing shortage, with about 7,000 homes available, according census data.
The shortage is partly due to a shortage of available space, Tuckermans chief financial officer, David Tuckert, said.
The problem is exacerbated by the city of Boston itself, which is having a difficult time finding more affordable housing.
Boston’s median home price in 2017 was $1.9 million, the most expensive in the state, according data from the Massachusetts Association of REALTORS.
That was up from $1 million in 2009 and $1,600 in 2015, the report said.
In some places, prices were even higher.
A report from RealtyTrac, an online real estate search tool, said the average median price of homes in Boston was $2,400, up from an average of $2 million in 2010.
But prices in many of Bostons priciest neighborhoods, including Beacon Hill and the North Point, are now well below the national median of $3 million.
Boston has a long history of housing shortages.
The last time there was a housing crisis was in the 1970s, said Peter Pardue, an economist at Northeastern University and a former mayor of Boston.
In the mid-1990s, when the city was struggling with its own housing crisis, Pardu said, the city enacted a law mandating that every property sold by the middle of the month be resold for at least a year.
That forced developers to build more houses and to buy less, pushing prices up in Boston for years, he said.
But now that demand is back, Parue said, and it is starting to reverse.
Pardue said the city is not going to be able to meet demand at the same pace it did during the housing crisis.
The city’s housing shortage has forced it to build fewer homes and to build them higher, which makes it harder for developers to pay for those homes, he added.
But the current housing shortage is not necessarily a result of developers’ greed.
The developers and builders have to make a profit, said Mark Zandi, a real estate strategist at First Boston Partners, which owns properties in Fort Lee and North Berwick.
They need to make money, he argued.
If they don’t, they won’t be able or willing to build anymore.
“It is an inevitable outcome of the economic downturn,” Zandi said.