Metro, Newton

Newton Home Prices Boom Amid the Pandemic

The median sales price of single-family homes has nearly doubled in Newton in the last 10 years, according to a report that the city’s Assessors’ Office released on Nov. 15. 

The median sales price in the city in 2021 through September increased by 91.3 percent since 2012. Ten years ago, the median sale price of a single-family home was $784,010, compared to $1,500,000 this year. 

For Rick Lipof, vice president of Newton City Council and chair of the Land Use Committee, the rising sales prices are both positive and negative for the city. 

“We want opportunities for all, and I get that and that’s the negative,” Lipof said. “But I also am getting a little tired of feeling guilty or bad about it. Because who wants to live in a city where values are going in the other direction? If that was happening, it would mean that something was wrong with our city, that our school system was faltering, that crime was increasing.”

Four factors make Newton attractive to potential homeowners, according to Lipof, who also owns Lipof Real Estate Services. 

“We’re made up of villages,” Lipof said. “We don’t feel like a city. We’re close to Boston. We have an incredible school system.”

The increase in sales prices in Newton reflects trends throughout Massachusetts and the country. 

In Massachusetts, the typical value of a single-family home increased from $305,000 in January of 2012 to $595,000 by August 2021—an increase of 73.5 percent, according to Zillow. The median sales price increased by 17.8 percent more in Newton than in the rest of the state. 

Lipof said the higher increase in Newton compared to the rest of Massachusetts is partly the result of the pandemic. More home buyers are choosing to purchase homes in the suburbs, Lipof said. 

“People stayed and didn’t put their houses in the market,” Lipof said. “But we still had that group of people who were desperately trying to get into the suburbs to have the deck, to have the backyard, to have the school system, to make that move sooner than they would [before the pandemic] because they wanted to get out of the city.”

Median sales prices of single-family homes in the United States increased by 94.1 percent from 2012 to August 2021—from approximately $187,400 to $363,800—according to Statista. The increase in median value in Newton is 2.8 percent larger than the U.S. increase. 

The biggest year-to-year increase within the 12-year period in Newton occurred during the pandemic. Sales prices increased by 15.7 percent between 2020 and September of 2021 to $1,500,000. 

In addition to the effects of the pandemic, new and refurbished homes in Newton are attracting homeowners, according to Melvin A. Vieira Jr., the president-elect of the Greater Association of Boston Realtors and a realtor with RE/MAX Destiny. 

“You have the housing stock being turned to new, you have more buyers in the market, and you have … people who, … want to move back in the neighborhood,” Viera said.

Within Newton, the Assesors’ Office valued median sales prices highest in West Newton followed by Chestnut Hill, according to the report. Single-family homes were assessed lowest in Nonantum, according to the report. No single-family homes sold for under $400,000, according to the report. 

Vieira said that rising sales prices push people out of Newton.

“Without housing, without keeping people within the communities, you lose the community,” Vieira said. “It’s not a community anymore. It’s just a group of people.”

Creating housing through affordability programs is one way for the city to combat rising costs, Lipof said.

“We approved a whole new neighborhood that’s going to be built on Needham Street called Northland,” he said. “These developments come with 17 and a half percent of the units being truly affordable and under affordability programs. And we’re proud of that, but we need to create the middle market units.”

In addition to affordable housing, Lipof said Newton should approve developments bringing middle-rung housing, ranging from $350,000 to $750,000, to the village centers.

One way to add this middle-tier housing, Lipof said, is for the city to build taller buildings. 

“I’d like to change our zoning, where we will allow more height and therefore units above all of our retail buildings in all of our city centers,” Lipof said. “That’s the way it was back in the 1920s.”

Newton homes are also staying on the market longer, according to Vieira. He said homes are averaging 58 days on the market now, as opposed to just 20 days in 2020.

Vieira encouraged potential sellers to be intentional about their listings.

“Anybody who’s putting their home on the market, my suggestion to them is [to] make sure they price it right and price it accordingly so they can get it sold,” he said.

Featured Graphic by Liz Schwab / For the Heights

December 5, 2021