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Local Real Estate Market to Remain Strong in 2012, Experts Say

Two Arlington realtors present their expectations and explanations for what could be a solid year for the town's real estate market.

If two local experts are right about their predictions, we are in the beginning of a strong year for Arlington’s real estate market.

Bill Copithorne, broker-owner of , has worked in the Arlington real estate market for 30 years. Realtor Steve McKenna, of , has been in town for 25 years.

Both are confident about a that should lead off an even better 2012.

“Last year, as far as Arlington goes, things held pretty strong,” Copithorne said, adding there is a fair amount of backed-up demand for homes in Arlington.

“The inventory is very low as it typically is for this time of year,” he said. “But I think the local market is well poised for a good year.”

McKenna said buyers are starting to decide now is the time to buy.

“There are a lot of sellers who held off when the market had tanked and are now saying, ‘You know what, I can afford to sell my house,’” he added. “I think 2012 is going to be a very promising year for Arlington, for all types of properties.”

The balance between sales in condos, single-family homes and multi-family homes is like a game of musical chairs.

Condominiums attract younger families, who are generally first-time homebuyers. They tend to be the crowd leaving Back Bay and Cambridge for a suburban—but not rural—community, still close enough to everything, McKenna explained.

Quite a few of those families bought their condos a few years ago, so now they’re starting to look for single-family homes, which sold a bit lower last year compared to 2010, from 277 to 263 sales. Average prices were up from $537,511 to $545,917, according to multiple listing service real estate data.

And some of those families in single-family homes are starting to look for multi-family homes, perhaps as a sign of the economy, the realtors said. A recent trend has been big families buying multi-family homes to live in, as opposed to a large number of buyers who would convert them indo condos in previous years.

“Most people now are either keeping them or handing them over to family members,” McKenna said.

The multi-family homes that do sell have received some interest from new families with friends, or those with a recently widowed grandma.

“At the height of the market, people were buying these and converting them into condominiums,” McKenna added. “But the condominium market is quiet now.”

Condominium sales were up from 201 in 2010 to 211 in 2011, according to multiple listing service real estate data. The average price went down from $396,242 to $361,121.

“We had more sales but the values decreased, and that made sense from a market standpoint because most people bought condos three years ago when those prices were much higher,” he added. “Now those people are looking for family homes and they’re feeling the pressure of having to sell.”

Copithorne has also seen multi-family homes getting a great deal of attention in the last year or so. Their sales remained constant, with only two fewer homes selling in 2011 compared to 2010, falling from 36 to 34. The average sale price hardly changed, from $567,338 to $567,253.

Single-family homes have held strong and are doing well, Copithorne said. In fact, the realtor added, he has a number of clients “anxious for something to come on,” hinting at a solid demand that could strengthen the market even further.

McKenna explains that Arlington remains a solid real estate option because of the easy access to renowned universities, hospitals and the tech industry.

“They’re younger families who don’t want to be too suburban and want to be closer to everything,” he said. “And yet, they want a nice backyard.”

This trend has also strengthened similar communities, such as Watertown and Newton, McKenna said.

“People don’t want to spend an hour and a half sitting in traffic to and from work,” he added, “so they’re looking at Arlington and saying, ‘This is where I want to live.’”

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