According to LINK, 844 condos sold during the third quarter. That's up from the 539 vended during the second quarter. Surprisingly, compared to last year's third quarter, the total number of sales increased by two.

The Boston condo real estate market has been on the rebound. After a meager start to the second quarter, due in large part to the COVID-19 pandemic, sales began to really blossom throughout the third quarter. When the rate of the coronavirus infections went down in Massachusetts during the late spring and summer and with restrictions easing, more people got back into the business of buying and selling homes.

According to LINK, 844 condos sold during the third quarter. That’s up from the 539 vended during the second quarter. Surprisingly, compared to last year’s third quarter, the total number of sales increased by two.

Another sign of recovery was depicted by the number of homes on the market. During the worst of the pandemic early in the second quarter, the number of available homes plummeted to 243. A year earlier, there were 554 units on the market at the height of the second quarter.

During the third quarter, inventory rebounded from 291 available in July to 377 at the end of September – the highest number of units available in the city this year so far. Although this trend is a good sign that the housing market is improving, market inventory is not as strong as it was when the third quarter of last year closed with 563 condos available.

Looking at prices for Boston condo sales for July, August and September, there was a 13 percent decrease from a year ago. The average selling price for the third quarter this year was $1,161,201. The median selling price dropped seven percent to $810,000. Also descending from the third quarter last year were the average price per square foot ($1,004) and median price per square foot ($924) – both behind 4 percent.

LINK also reports that sales were down in seven of the 12 neighborhoods covered. The biggest decreases compared to last year’s third quarter came in the West End, Back Bay, Fenway and Midtown. On the positive note, the largest increases in sales were in Seaport, South Boston and Charlestown.

The average selling price was higher in the Back Bay, Charlestown, North End and West End. It was lower in every other neighborhood with the biggest price drops showing up in Seaport, Midtown and the Waterfront.

Two-bedroom units continue to be the biggest sellers with 423 condos moving – down two percent from last year. The only division to rise was one-bedroom homes, which went up eight percent to 271 sold.

Condos that were between 1,001 to 1,600 square feet topped the Boston market again with 276 sold – an upsurge of six percent from last year’s third quarter. The biggest jump came in units 700 square feet or less with 208 selling – an increase of 18 percent from last year.

Sales for the larger homes fell dramatically. Only 50 homes between 1,801 and 2,400 square feet sold – down 43 percent from last year. And only 25 homes larger than 2,400 square feet were moved, reflecting a reduction in sales of 38 percent.

As a sign that there is more demand than homes on the market, 22 percent of sales closed above the asking price. That’s consistent with the rate at the end of the second quarter.

Jonathan J. Miller, President/CEO of Miller Samuel Inc., said, "Sales edged higher year over year, rebounding quickly from the sharp drop off in spring market activity at the onset of the COVID crisis." Miller, who completed a quarterly report for Douglas Elliman, also points out that the median sales price declined annually for the second straight quarter after rising during the previous four.

Luxury condos

Luxury category numbers for the third quarter were all down compared to last year, but up when compared to the second quarter.

For this past quarter, 91 luxury units sold, a drop of 19 percent from last year, but it beats the 60 condos that sold in the second quarter of this year.

The average selling price increased from the second quarter to $2,765,174 for the third quarter. However, that’s a decrease of 15 percent from last year. The median selling price dipped 30 percent compared to last year at $1,805,000, but it’s better than the $1,760,000 from the second quarter.

The price per square foot was also lower than during the third quarter of last year with the average now at $1,668 and the median at $1,640.

The second quarter ended with only 39 luxury condos on the market, but that number went up in the third quarter with 54 units available. Last year, the third quarter closed with 158 units on the market – many of those at One Dalton, which has been steadily selling since units became available to buy.

The luxe category includes the full-service buildings such as the InterContinental, Four Seasons, Ritz, Rowes Wharf, One Dalton, The Lucas, Pierce Boston, The Lyndon, The Whitwell, 50 Liberty, Lovejoy Wharf, Millennium Tower and 180 Beacon. These places typically include valet parking and concierge service along with lifestyle amenities such as social clubs, theaters, gyms and pools. Some even include an array of special events.

Here is the breakdown of overall sales per neighborhood covered by LINK and Boston Homes:

Back Bay

One Dalton, the city’s tallest residential building, has been the driving force in sales figures in the Back Bay over the past year – and that is still the case today. Of the top 25 sales in Boston this quarter, eight were at One Dalton – six of those coming in the top 10.

Even with the domination of One Dalton, sales in the Back Bay toppled 39 percent to only 83 sold. The average selling price rose a percent from last year’s third quarter to $2.376,957 – the highest in the city. The median price selling price tumbled 25 percent to $1,170,000. The price per square foot continues to be the highest in Boston with the average now at $1,416 and the median at $1,184.

The quarter closed with inventory rocketing up to 82 condos on the market. That’s a lot higher than the low of 39 from the middle of the second quarter. However, the number still reflects a condition of not having enough homes on the market to match demand.

With 22 percent of sales closing above the asking price, that’s an indication that the Back Bay is still a very desirable neighborhood.

Beacon Hill

On Beacon Hill, the story retells a shortage of homes available to meet demand – and maintains the standard that says residents enjoy living there. The second quarter ended with only 14 units available for purchase. That number steadily grew during the third quarter, closing with 30 homes on the market.

Beacon Hill saw 47 homes sell during the quarter – down six percent from last year, but much better than the 30 that sold in the second quarter this year.

The average selling price slipped five percent to $1,117,364 and the median sunk 11 percent to $849,000. The average and median price per square foot both went up to $1,183. Home stayed on the market an average of 77 days.

Charlestown

Duplicating the second quarter, Charlestown continues to be one of the brightest spots in Boston during these days of the pandemic. This neighborhood set a new record for sales volume. In July, August and September, the total volume rose to $106,229,875. That’s an amazing pinnacle from the old mark of $98,313,130 set in the second quarter of 2018.

During this past quarter, 130 homes sold in Charlestown – a lift of 21 percent from a year ago. The average selling price bumped up a percent to $809,461 yet the median remained at $749,500.

The average price per square foot was $762 and the median was $750.

Inventory has rebounded to 66 homes on the market – a surge from the second quarter low of 20.

Charlestown is one of the most sought-after neighborhoods in the city. Demand is much greater than supply, as reflected by the fact that 31 percent of the homes sold went for higher than the asking price. Homes stayed on the market an average of 50 days.

Fenway

Sales in the Fenway have been recovering after crashing 68 percent in the second quarter. This time around, 29 condos sold – much better than the 13 that sold in the previous quarter. However, it’s still down 38 percent from the number of sales in the third quarter of 2019.

The average selling price slipped a percent to $726,583 and the median is now a city low of $555,000.

The price per square foot jumped nine percent to $1,024 and the median went up four percent to $993.

The quarter closed with six homes on the market, indicative of a tight inventory.

Midtown

Sales in Midtown fell 33 percent from last year’s third quarter to only 31 units sold. Yet, it’s an improvement from the 23 sold in the second quarter. Inventory has climbed from a low of 12 in the middle of the second quarter to 28 at the end of the third quarter. Again, this is a reflection of not enough homes on the market to meet demand since inventory never fell below 35 throughout all last year.

The average selling price sunk 25 percent to $1,344,040 and the median dipped 23 percent to $1,000,000. The square foot rates also slipped to $1,009 average and $931 median.

Closing prices sailed above the asking price 33 percent of the time.

North End

The North End, which was the only neighborhood to see sales rise in the second quarter, went up again during this quarter. For July through September, 27 condos sold – an increase of 13 percent from the same time last year.

The average selling price – the second most affordable in LINK’s coverage area – ticked up three

percent to $723,133 and median notched up a percent to $646,200. The average price per square foot sprung six percent to $955 while the median rose four percent to $973.

The North End continues to be popular with buyers looking for great bargains. Homes stayed on the market an average of only 35 days – the fastest turnaround in the city. One reason is that there aren’t many homes to buy in the North End. The quarter ended with only four units available. A year ago, there were 13 homes on the market.

Another sign of the demand and competition for North End residences – 67 percent of the homes sold went for higher than the asking price.

Seaport

Seaport, which saw sales crash 64 percent in the second quarter, is rallying bigtime. Sales climbed to 56 condos sold. That’s a boost of 27 percent from the same time last year. That’s the largest percentage increase in the city.

However, prices dropped 32 percent from the third quarter of last year to an average selling price of $1,766,428 and the median dipped 16 percent to $1,476,650. Both the average and median are higher when compared to the second quarter of this year.

The price per square foot held its own at $1,526, but the median hopped up 26 percent to $1,537.

Inventory has been steadily declining so far this year. The third quarter closed with only 12 homes on the market. A year ago, around 100 condos were for sale. Of the homes sold, eight percent went above the asking price.

South Boston

This very popular neighborhood once again had the most sales in the city. In the third quarter, 211 homes acquired new owners – elevating 22 percent from last year.

Prices were pretty stable with the average selling cost at $747,008 and the median at $719,000. The price per square foot also didn’t move much from the third quarter of 2019: the average was $762 and the median was $748.

South Boston experienced its lowest point in inventory in a long time, which came early in the second quarter when only 13 homes were on the market. That number, however, has since risen, ending the third quarter with 26 units available.

Homes only stayed on the market an average of 45 days in this extremely desirable neighborhood. While the temperature was rising, the competition for units heated up during the summer. Thirty-three percent of the sales closed above the asking price – that’s a big jump from the 19 percent above asking in the second quarter.

South End

This was a spring-back quarter for the always-popular and in-demand South End. The number of homes sold soared to 183 – the second most in the city. That’s a 18 percent lift from a year ago and is much better than the 112 that sold in the second quarter this year.

The average selling price slipped two percent to $1,293,090 and the median dipped a percent to $1,060,000.

The average price per square foot hit a new mark, rising a percent to $1,083. The new median PSF was $1,080.

Demand for housing in the South End remains competitive with homes staying on the market an average of only 46 days.

Inventory has skyrocketed up to 96 homes available. The count never reached that high last year and is a vast improvement over the low of 25 available when 2020 began.

Twenty-seven percent of all the sales closed above the asking price.

Waterfront

On the Waterfront, sales shuffled down again, this time plunging 12 percent to 37 sold. The average price sunk 21 percent from the same time last year to $1,150,818 and the median plummeted 29 percent to $915,275.

The average PSF was down three percent to $986 and the median dropped six percent to $939.

The third quarter closed with only 22 condos on the market, which was one home fewer than was available at the close of the second quarter.

West End

There usually are not many homes available in the West End, but those that are on the market are generally sold fast. Sales dove 44 percent to 10 sold for the third quarter. The average selling price skipped up by two percent to $700,600 and the median advanced 16 percent to $605,000. Both the average and median prices in the West End represent the lowest in LINK’s coverage area.

The PSF was the most affordable in the city at $752 average and $704 median. The quarter ended with five homes on the market – more than the typical number for sale.

Looking ahead

Of course, no one knows exactly what will happen in the city’s housing market for the rest of this year. There are many key factors that will play a vital role.

First and foremost – COVID-19 is still ominous and the city has seen a steady increase in cases since Labor Day. The expected new surge is here and how that will play out is still a mystery. After getting absolutely walloped by the coronavirus last winter, the Commonwealth is now one of the leaders in the country initiating how the pandemic is being handled. Gov. Charlie Baker says Massachusetts is better prepared for the second surge, having used the downtime during the spring and summer to increase testing and contact tracing as well as helping hospitals to restock medical supplies. Couple that with the willingness of most residents to follow the rules, such as wearing face masks, washing hands frequently and avoiding large gatherings, and the businesses enforcing the virus containment rules, hopefully we can all make it through without another statewide shutdown.

Another key element that effects the housing market is the economy. If the federal government can pass a badly needed new economic stimulus bill, that will help circumvent a very deep double-dip recession-depression.

There is still demand for housing and Boston remains a popular international destination. Real estate agents have been resourceful in showing and selling homes during these most challenging times. As long as Massachusetts can curtail the virus – with everyone following the guidelines - then the real estate market will continue to recover. Otherwise, the economy is in for another downturn that will be at least as bad as what was experienced during the spring.

Coming up soon: A breakdown of the top 10 selling condos as well as the top sales in each Boston neighborhood during the third quarter.