While the West Coast may make plenty of headlines for high-priced living in places like San Francisco and Seattle, Boston shows that the East Coast can be an equally tough place for housing costs. According to recent data from rental firm Zumper, Beantown is the fourth most expensive place to rent an apartment in the U.S. (coming in right after San Francisco). But what if you’re looking to buy or sell a home here? Read on to learn everything you need to know about the Boston housing market.
Boston housing market overview
Boston continues to be an attractive place to live, thanks to loads of history, culture and professional opportunities from its many universities and companies like HubSpot and Fidelity Investments. The healthy job market translates to a healthy housing market: According to August 2023 figures from the Greater Boston Association of Realtors (GBAR), the median sale price for a single-family home in the metro area was more than double the national median, and rising. However, while prices are increasing, overall sales are declining as more homeowners are reluctant to list their homes and buyers are scared off by high mortgage rates.
Boston housing trends & stats
Home prices are increasing in Boston. According to GBAR data, the median sale price for a single-family home in August was $881,000 — a 6.8 percent jump from the year before.
That’s more than double the National Association of Realtors’ nationwide median price of $406,700. Even condo prices here are considerably above the national median at $685,000.
Single-family homes sell quickly, spending just 20 days on the market in August. In August of last year that figure was 20.5 days.
The sale-to-list price ratio in August was 102.5 percent, meaning homes sold for around 2.5 percent above their list price. That’s just shy of a 1 percent increase year-over-year.
Closing costs typically tack on around 1.3 percent of the home’s sale price in Massachusetts, according to the most recent data from CoreLogic’s ClosingCorp. On a median-priced $881,000 Boston home, that comes to $11,453.
Should you buy or sell in the Boston housing market?
Wondering whether Boston is a buyer’s or seller’s market? The power is very much in sellers’ hands right now.
If you’re a home seller
Sellers have the edge in Boston. Even as prices are rising, inventory is declining — there’s only a 1-month supply of homes right now, per GBAR, which is woefully short of the 5 or 6 months a balanced market would require. Buyers simply don’t have a whole lot of options, or room to bargain. In fact, according to recent research from Redfin, less than 16 percent of sellers in Beantown offer concessions to buyers in early 2023. That’s the lowest share of all the metro areas analyzed.
If you’re thinking about selling, be sure you have a solid idea of how much your home is worth. Your location within Boston will play a big role in determining an appropriate listing price. For example, while homes in the Central Middlesex Region have a median price tag of $1.125 million, the Southern Norfolk Region’s median is $693,500. Properties within the actual city limits of Boston have a median price in-between the two: $827,500.
If you’re a homebuyer
There aren’t a lot of homes on the market in Boston — inventory is a tiny 1 month’s worth — and the ones that do hit the market sell pretty quickly. So buyers need to be prepared and ready to act fast. The most essential step of being able to land a property starts well before you actually start house-hunting: Get preapproved for a mortgage. This will not only help you figure out just how much house you can afford, it will show sellers that you’re a qualified buyer — which can be a big help in a competitive market.
As you consider your budget, be mindful of more than your monthly housing payment, too. The cost of living in Boston is very high, so consider your other expenses to make sure you aren’t stretching your finances too thin.
Pro tip: If you’re on a tight budget, start your search in the Southern Norfolk Region, which includes towns like Avon, Foxboro, Mansfield, Norwood, Sharon and Stoughton. GBAR data shows the median price tag for a single-family home in this area is $693,500, which (while still high) is significantly lower than the overall region’s median of $881,000.
Boston housing market predictions
Despite nationwide concerns about a housing market crash, the continued uptick in Boston housing prices is evidence that the city’s real estate market is healthy. While prices dipped in the early months of 2023, they soared throughout the summer. Plus, the city’s role as a hub for business and academia, combined with booming sports and nightlife scenes, means that demand will continue to be high as people continue to flock here.
Find a Boston real estate agent
Buyers and sellers in Boston have different objectives and needs, but both sides share one commonality: A good local real estate agent is an essential piece of success. Look for someone who knows your specific area of Boston. The housing market here is very competitive, and a pro can help sellers determine the right pricing and promotion strategy to avoid leaving money on the table. And for buyers, a real estate agent can make all the difference between hunting for a house and actually buying one.
Are Boston real estate prices dropping?
No — in fact, real estate prices in Boston are on a tear upward. The median sale price for a single-family home here was $881,000 in August 2023, a 6.8 percent increase versus the same time one year earlier.
Is Boston a buyer’s or seller’s market?
Boston is very much a seller’s market. The current supply of single-family homes is just 1 month worth of inventory — well short of the 5 to 6 months that typically reflect a balanced market. Plus, sellers are typically commanding above-asking prices and rarely need to offer concessions to push a deal through to the finish line.