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Better have a fallback town

Posted by Scott Van Voorhis March 27, 2013 07:26 AM

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It's been a rude awakening for buyers just jumping into the housing market, especially in Greater Boston.

Instead of finding bargains on the heels of a years-long slump, buyers are getting sucked into bidding wars, with pressure to cast caution to the wind in order to snag a half decent place to live, the Globe's Jenifer McKim reports in an excellent piece today.

OK, it's not quite a rerun yet of the bubble years - at least not yet. After all, a good part of the current frenzy is being stoked by the fact that sellers are still sitting things out, hoping prices will continue to rise. In the meantime, that has meant a dwindling number of listings on the market - and bidding wars for the subset of reasonably priced homes that don't need major work.

But rising prices and competition is not just the only thing buyers are waking up to. They are also finding their daydreams of snagging a Cambridge condo or hipster pad in Davis Square - or for that matter a picture perfect colonial in a town like Hingham or Newton - may now be out of their reach.

OK, unless you are loaded and can spend whatever it takes to get a home in the town or zip code of your dreams, you had better have a fallback town, or two, or three.

Here's a pretty telling stat from the Globe story, offered up by Redfin. Of the deals the online brokerage is working on in Cambridge, 89 percent now involve multiple bids, compared to 68 percent last year.

If you can't get into Cambridge or Somerville, maybe it's time to think about Watertown, Medford or even Waltham.

Of course, now I am going to catch heat from all the folks who claim that talk of bidding wars is some sort of fictitious propaganda generated by the real estate industry.

However, it's buyers who are actually in the market right now - not sideline observers or holier than thou renters - who are doing the complaining, as they should.

Here's a frustrated buyer, straight from McKim's Globe piece.

Victoria Criado isn't feeling so optimistic. She and her fiance have spent several months looking in vain for a home priced between $275,000 and $400,000 in Jamaica Plain or Somerville. Already, the couple lost out a $325,000 home, even though they offered the owners $330,000. As she watches values escalate, Criado, 32, is starting to wonder if they started looking too late. She said it's disheartening to arrive at an open house to find dozens of shoes lined up near the front door - another place packed with hopeful, or desperate, buyers.

"The worst part is not being able to make a reasonable bid and win," she said.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About boston real estate now
Scott Van Voorhis is a freelance writer who specializes in real estate and business issues.

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