JP housing market holds steady

Rebeca Oliveira

Gazette Photo by Rebeca Oliveira
The least expensive home for sale in JP last week was a condo in this building at 76 Elm St. in Sumner Hill.

The Jamaica Plain real estate market comes down to this: it could be a lot worse. Prices are holding steady—if not climbing slightly—and buyers are starting to come out after a long winter.

“We’re hoping for a good spring,” Ron Danklefs, a real estate agent with Jamaica Hill Realty, told the Gazette last week. “The business follows the sun.”

“People are circling and circling. Maybe they’ll start pouncing soon,” Faye Simon from Faye Simon Real Estate told the Gazette in a phone interview.

The market in JP is still “treading water,” B.J. Ray, an agent with Prudential Unlimited Realty, told the Gazette in a phone interview last week. “But the market…seems to be finding its groove…I think that JP has the best chance to come out swinging in the next few years.”

Foreclosures in JP are way below state and national averages, for a start: according to industry website, one in every 2,297 housing units in Jamaica Plain received a foreclosure filing in February 2011. The Massachusetts average was one in 1,758 housing units.

While current home prices still haven’t fully recovered from the economic downturn and are hovering around 2005 levels, well lower than the peak prices of 2008, JP is still doing much better than neighboring towns.

“In general, there doesn’t seem to be any value recession. You’re seeing higher prices than expected,” Ray said.

“[The JP market has] been doing great compared to neighboring towns, but it depends on the property,” Danklefs said.

“[JP is] a solid, stable market, more or less,” Simon said. “[Prices] came down, but not to the point where it’s affordable for the average family.”

In JP, the average home price falls between $200 to $350 per square foot of indoor space, translating to $240,000 to $420,000 for a 1,200-square-foot property. Cost per square foot is a rough comparison between properties: While this measure doesn’t account for location, condition of the property or amenities, it is the industry standard for broad comparisons. Single-family homes tend to lean to the cheaper end of this scale, though they also tend to have more square footage than condos and hence, higher overall prices.

Last week, the cheapest Multiple Listing Service (MLS) listing in JP was for a 920-square-foot unit in the Sumner Hill Condominiums at 76 Elm St., priced at $160,000 ($174 per square foot). The most expensive was for a 4,853-square-foot home on Pond Street—for a whopping $2.7 million, or $556 per square foot.

A random sampling of 3-bedroom, 2-bath homes with 1,200-1,500 square feet of space in Somerville and Roslindale—the neighborhoods most often mentioned by agents as secondary options for buyers interested in JP—showed a similar range in price per square foot, though JP properties tended to be on the more expensive end of the range.

Somerville properties hovered around $280-$300 per square foot and Roslindale around $220-$240 per square foot, while JP’s were around $300-$320. Somerville’s properties were mostly smaller condos while Roslindale’s listings were more often single-family houses with yards attached.

“JP is a desirable place to live. It has been for a very long time,” Ray said. “Green space, public transportation and commercial space—shops—make for a great place.”

“[JP] never really has and never really will attract just one block of life. It’s an exciting real estate market and an exciting community,” he added.

Most current JP listings are for recent condo conversions, featuring granite countertops and stainless steel appliances.

“Good developers aren’t afraid to come to JP and build good properties for a good value,” Ray said.

“Gentrification has really embedded itself. It’s just the way it is,” Simon said. “Whoever is able to buy up the multi-family [houses], they’re buying them up and converting them into condos.”

For those looking to purchase, Simon recommends having a 20 percent down payment ready: “It’s the foundation of real estate market, who can get financing.” After the economic downturn, she said, banks are now much more conservative in their lending practices.

“Because of all the changes in the way loans are given now, it’s advisable to have good credit and 20 percent down,” Simon added.

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