I think it’s fair, or at least pretty much reasonable, to charge $400 a square foot on a nice condo in a nice part of Somerville. So when I found out that the Building 5 Lofts had a place just shy of a thousand square feet asking $415k, I figured it would at least be worth my while to drop by and have a look. After all, the flyer price is down from the $429k listed on the website, and I seem to recall them asking a half-mill for these pre-construction. This is shaping up to be a bargain, right?
And I know the neighborhood. I’ve been here for years. I could live hear for many, many years more. At the very least, I want to be here at least another ten years, so that I can be around when my neighbor’s daughter (now age 3) hears the story of how, shortly after figuring out how to take off her pants, she somehow got into my yard and crapped on the lawn. Yes, I’m saving this story til then for maximum embarrassment factor. That’s community investment right there, bucko. That’s what holds a town together: Shared humiliation of other people’s children.
Seriously, though. Look at this address. Scroll the picture around and turn to where the construction site and parking lot are… OK, the picture is unimpressive, but look around the neighborhood. It’s a great neighborhood. Imagine it in a year, after the construction is done and the landscaping comes in. This is really a hell of a good place to live. Walk to the train. Walk to the bus. Walk to restaurants, bars, towns, bike path — although not so close that kids are rollerblading past your windows at night. It’s a really good location. An excellent location. Plus, off-street parking and basement storage. This is a desirable condo, worth top dollar. Not Back Bay top dollar, but still.
Don’t leave. Seriously. I’m getting to the point. Honest.
Being me, on the way over I had imaginary conversations with myself. “Never trust a mortgage broker, never trust a realtor – not even your very own buyer’s agent, never trust an assessment or inspection or seller….” I’m not a trusting person. And I read a lot of pessimistic websites.
Of course, once I got there, I didn’t say any of those things. Besides, the people who were showing the place were very nice. And when I asked how they calculated the 961 square feet of the place, they were pretty honest that it was a figure larger than what was visible. I was mollified. It’s not even a dishonest figure: A builder calculates the square footage of the building site. A buyer calculates the square footage of what they’ll be living in.
Nonetheless, a lot of people end up with inflated figures. And there’s too much variation between one person’s square foot and another that it’s impossible to judge what people are really asking. In other words, I don’t think enough people really know what they’re buying or selling or renting. And that’s why people like me wouldn’t dream of showing up for a serious tour of an apartment or condo without a measuring tape and calculator to measure each room. It lets the realtors know we’re not to be trifled with. OK, it lets them know we’re assholes.
And yes, as soon as I walked in that door, the $432/square foot they were asking looked a lot more like $518/square foot to me. It was a beautiful home in an excellent location. But it was not even close to a thousand square feet. And I don’t care how lovely those hardwood floors and high ceilings are, I’m not paying more than $2.77 per square inch for housing.