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Roxbury real estate market heats up

Values, location draw buyers from other neighborhoods

(By: Yawu Miller
| 3/30/2016)  
Within 45 minutes, 16 individuals and couples had filtered through 39 Copeland Street and real estate broker Delince Louis had five offers well over the $299,900 asking price for the three-bedroom, 1,200 square foot first floor condominium on Copeland Street.

If Louis’ open house was any indication, Roxbury’s real estate market may be off to a strong start. While Roxbury sales prices are substantially lower than in many neighboring communities of Jamaica Plain, South Boston and the South End, pressure from those markets may continue to push prices up.

“Lots of folks who are coming through are residents of Jamaica Plain and the South End,” Louis said of the mostly-white prospective buyers. “What people see here is value. You have nice architecture. Great buildings. You have close proximity to public transit. Close proximity to downtown.”

Louis is bullish on Roxbury’s real estate market. A three-bedroom Dorr Street condo his firm (Beantown Property Group) sold last year for $550,000 is now back on the market for $618,000. One single family at 10 Elmore Street sold recently for $550,000.   Another single family at 45 Elmore Street sold for $590,000.

Still a bargain

Those prices are still far below the $799,000-$879,000 asking prices for condos on Wyman Street in neighboring Jamaica Plain.

As good a value as Roxbury real estate is, many potential sellers are holding on to their inventory, awaiting the day when their homes fetch the same value as those on the other side of Columbus Avenue.

The gulf between the higher values in abutting neighborhoods and lower values in Roxbury hasn’t stopped sellers from reaching. There’s the nine-room puddingstone house on Lambert Avenue in the Highland Park section of Roxbury that was last year listed at $829,000. It didn’t sell and is now on the market for $750,000.

Then there’s a rather battered looking triple decker at 8 Greenville Street near Dudley Square. “Great opportunity for developers! Major rehab in the heart of Roxbury,” reads the $659,900 listing on Trulia. That property hasn’t sold in the 56 days it has been on the real estate website Trulia, despite a price reduction from its original $699,000 asking price.

The undisputed king of the high asking prices is 27 Howland Street, where a developer carved out a 4,500 square foot unit and a 3,500 square foot unit from a three-story home and listed listed them for $1.39 million and $1.34 million, respectively. Those prices are down from $1.5 and 1.4 million when the property debuted on Trulia 83 days ago.

Will the developer get those prices?

“I don’t think so,” says broker Kobe Evans. “I don’t see it happening. There are some smooth-talking agents who get owners thinking about prices they wouldn’t ask for.”

Evans notes that many developers rehabbing buildings in and around Roxbury are renting out units, rather than selling. With young professionals no longer frightened by the prospect of living in a predominantly diverse neighborhood, the rental market in Roxbury is now being inundated with students.

“Anything cheap or half-way cheap is being rehabbed and converted into rentals by investors,” he said.

Whether or not there is room for record breaking sales prices in Roxbury, inventory remains an issue, with many potential sellers waiting for the market to peak. One expansive Humboldt Avenue Victorian, briefly on the market for $1.2 million last year, is coming back at just under $1 million, notes broker Sharif Abdal-Khallaq.

“There are a few properties that could sell for a million dollars in Roxbury,” he said. “But most of the people who own them don’t want to sell.”

Growing demand

Whether or not Roxbury residents are ready to sell, buyers are coming, driven by the rapid rises in prices and rents in the rest of Boston. Millennial renters and home buyers are moving into the areas of Roxbury closest to public transit — Highland Park near the Roxbury Crossing MBTA station, Marcella, Townsend and Elmore streets near Jackson Square and the Moreland Street neighborhood near Dudley Square.

“Walkability is key for millennials,” Evans said. “If they can ride a bike or walk to the T, it’s ideal.”

At Copeland Street, just a few blocks from the Dudley Square bus terminal, Brighton resident Katie, who asked that her last name be withheld for this story, compared the spacious three-bedroom to her $1,600 one-bedroom.

Growing up in Brookline, Katie avoided Roxbury and Dorchester.  But as she looks for a first home, those neighborhoods are now on the table.

“I had pre-conceived notions about Roxbury, Dorchester and Mattapan,” she said. “I was surprised at how well-kept those neighborhoods are.

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