Last year, a parking spot in Back Bay sold for…wait for it…$300K. It wasn’t even a covered spot. Assuming it was SUV-sized, it was, at the largest, about 10 feet by 20 feet. That’s 200 square feet or, as we in the real estate industry would transcribe: $1500/sqft. Except with this purchase there were no Miele Dishwashers, Viking Stoves or Sub-Zero freezers included. For that kind of dough, I would expect at least a half-bath to be there for you after a long drive. According to various sources this was the highest price paid in Boston for a parking spot. While it’s not the norm, parking IS still a commodity in Greater Boston.
I found a report from a 2002 census stating that the percentage of Boston’s citizens owning at least one car jumped by 34% from 1990 to 2000. Well it doesn’t seem like the car population has diminished any since 2000.
If you’re buying or selling property you MUST have an understanding of parking value in your neighborhood. If you do have parking, you’ll want to know how much the spot is worth. If you don’t have a parking spot, you’ll want to know how and where to position your property among others in your market that may be similar but have parking. But from where does this data come? Strangely it’s mostly anecdotal.
One thing to remember: a common misconception in real estate is that spaces are not usually ‘deeded’. In fact, almost all parking spaces associated with condominiums are NOT deeded. Almost always they are ‘assigned’. For a parking space to actually be deeded it means, by definition, that the space has its own deed and can be transacted between parties on its own. Why most agents repeatedly and wrongly refer to the spaces attached to the units they are listing as ‘deeded’ is mystery to me. But don’t get me started on bad real estate agent practices.
The problem with finding value for parking is that, since most spaces are attached to a unit deed, they are selling with the property and not on their own. What an appraiser would do is find two very similar properties in close proximity that also sold within a 3-6 month window of time. It may not seem like much, but there are many variables to consider with just those three components. For example, 90% of the properties on a given street may have their own driveways and access to private parking, but the next street over, due to more hydrants, public works egresses or simply due to the way the land was zoned years before, has almost no private parking so all of its inhabitants are using street parking more than the average. Certainly, by the principles of supply and demand parking will have a greater value on the second street. Do you know how many appraisers are capable of making this distinction?
Another example would be if the two similar properties were similar aside from a parking space and some additional yard space. Sure we can see that the one with the yard and parking was more expensive, but how much of that surplus to you attribute to parking?
Yet as difficult as it is to justify the value of a parking space with hard data, if you asked any seasoned real estate agent in the city (this writer included), he/she will likely have a set of pre-determined figures in mind for the areas they service. Just ask me: South End? Average $45K-$50K. Although there was a recently listed space for $75K. It hasn’t sold yet. Cambridgeport? On average $25K-$35K. Coolidge Corner: $40K or more. Then you have garage/covered parking versus a regular spot. Tandem versus full. Are two spaces worth twice as much as one?
Jamaica Plain, perhaps only because I know it so well, really runs the gamut. I’ve seen appraisers value parking in JP for as little as $5K and as much as $25K. Currently, the new Maplehurst development at Bartlett Square is asking for $20K per garage spot. Compared to the $15K average in Jamaica Plain for a regular parking spot, that would seem like a pretty good price. Of course, you’ll have to buy a unit in the building in addition!
In a way, I suppose, there is some corrolation between parking value and how much of a pain in the ass it may be for residents or non-residents to find parking in a given area. It can’t be entirely corralative though–that would mean that a space in Inman Square would be worth millions (well, at least it was to me this past Friday night).
Recent sales show $89K in Midtown, $52K in Chinatown, $65K in the Back Bay. On the rare occasion that a deeded spot sells, we catch a glimpse of the market. Another way to look at value of a rental spot, the hourly and nightly rate of which is a barometer for the ease and availability of parking in any given area. (I’m not going to pay $20/hr to park in Hyde Square, but I might pay $2/hr). According to a study done by Colliers, Boston was the THIRD most expensive place for parking (averaging $438 month). The top two spots are both on Manhattan. The national average for parking (rented) is $115/month.
Our local real estate market is 2.5 times the national average in all home sale prices whereas the value on parking is nearly 4 times the national average.
New York at least has a public transportation system where it mostly makes more sense to use it in lieu of driving. In Greater Boston the T has too many time/location blindspots to make it largely practical for most folks and therefore not likely to enable any future decrease in car population. In 2000 85% of the households in Boston owned at least one car. That suggests that without some tectonic shift in how we handle parking, or if the MBTA streamlines their system, or if we fundamentally change how we commute and get around the city we are looking at a potential investment that will outpace the improvement in value of the residential property it may be attached to. The city is making strides in the latter–the bicycle ridership in Boston more than doubled between 2007 and 2009–but they are a very long ways away from ‘car commuting’ losing its ‘spot’ as the city’s biggest priority.
For me, I’d love to bike to work daily, but my avocation has me in many parts of the area and sometimes with little time in between. Last week I was in Cambridge, then Somerville, then JP, Hyde Park, Roslindale and JP again–all before noon. Lance Armstrong on steroids couldn’t do that and be on time for every appointment. I made a promise to myself to bike more this year when possible.
The short of it is, there is no free parking in Harvard Yard and buying a spot in Back Bay could cost you a condo in JP.