As Investor Interest in Allston Grows, Opportunities for Prospective Homeowners Dwindle

Prospective Homeowners Face Competition with Investors
Allston residents looking to buy homes have face several challenges, including competition with groups of investors willing to outbid locals. One such resident, Paola M. Ferrer, who spent the last 6 years trying to buy a home, is pictured in front of her Royal Street condominium building, where she is finally an owner.

A little over a year ago, then Brighton resident Paola M. Ferrer was preparing for another disappointment in her search for a home in Allston.

For at least the seventh time over a span of six years, Ferrer had fallen in love with a property in North Allston, the largely residential community north of the Massachusetts Turnpike in which most of Harvard’s land lies. The previous properties had all been scooped up by investors paying in cash before Ferrer could even make an offer, leaving her “heartbroken.”

Realtors, brokers, and friends told her that at her price point she could afford a much bigger home in other neighborhoods and towns in the Boston area. Ferrer, however, could not give up on Allston, she said.

“I felt I was really building community here,” she said. “It was important for me to stay here.”

Ferrer’s perseverance ultimately paid off. After a six-year search—juggling student loan debt, strict housing loan regulations, and the expiration of the contract at the apartment she was renting—she closed on a condominium in North Allston last spring.

“The universe just kind of aligned all of these pieces, and I was able to do it,” she said.

The obstacles Ferrer faced were not unusual, according to Carol Ridge-Martinez, the executive director of the Allston Brighton Community Development Corporation, an organization that creates affordable homes, educates first-time home-buyers, and fosters community leadership.

In recent years, Allston’s location near three large universities—Harvard, Boston University, and Boston College—has compounded the difficulties potential Allston homeowners face. As these universities expand and develop, they alter the housing environment in the neighborhood.

Residents say that cash-paying investors seeking to rent out properties swoop in and purchase newly available houses before potential homeowners have the chance to make a bid. And they worry that the influx of transient students that these investors market the properties to threaten the family-friendly character of Allston, forcing out lower-income families and decreasing the quality of the neighborhood’s housing.

TRIPLE-DECKER

Over the last ten years, and especially since the recent economic recession, Allstonians have faced the same difficulties in the housing market that have plagued many Boston communities.

Jessica B. Robertson has lived in Allston for ten years and two years ago started looking for a home to buy in North Allston.

“Almost nothing is coming on the market,” she said, adding that the units that do are often out of the price range for young people looking to buy their first home. In addition, Robertson said that community members are growing concerned over the increase in rental prices, the median of which spiked over $300 between 2009 and 2012, according to annual reports by the city of Boston.

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