From DC to Boston: What I Love About the Hub

no such map for BostonYes, folks, it’s good to be back in Boston. According to CNN Money, Boston remains one of the best places in the country to buy a home. Some cite its early exposure to the downturn in housing prices (see graph; it began around 2003), and a recent comparison of MLS condo data from John Keith seems to support this assertion.

Even the Boston Globe picked up on the trend, though it seemed more inclined to credit the liberal support policies of our state government than the inherent value offered by Boston’s unique service and transportation infrastructure. And, believe me, I’m not the only one who thinks this is the wrong stance to take.

Anyway, perusing past sales data from DC, I found modern condos like those offered by 48 Comm Ave with sizes ranging from small, single-person units right up to massive luxury units, sprawling with excess. The prices were a bit lower, but the gaps were proportional to the rest of the market.

What was different in DC was proximity to the city center. These towers were bumped out a ways, sometimes as far out as the Beltway or near MARC commuter rail stops. Developers no doubt cited safety or the “quiet” of the suburbs, and the commute distance wasn’t really that big with gas prices so low. Besides, the homes were “guaranteed” to increase in value.

Fast forward to 2008, though, and they have a whole bunch of developers scrambling to cut losses. Boston’s nonsensical, cramped, unplanned downtown suddenly became an asset, especially over DC’s meticulous but wide-scattered layout (picture at right). These downtown residences, along with the sustained profitability of Boston’s major medical, educational, and environmental employers kept Boston’s unique condo market afloat.

Of course, this isn’t to say something like the DC Effect can’t happen here; it might be going on already. Check back again for tomorrow’s post for a glimpse of the clouds gathering near Boston’s (relatively) sunny market.

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Image: L’Enfant’s plan for Washington, DC, 1791. Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons.