Originally created 04/28/04

Parking spot in Boston sells for $160,000



BOSTON -- As real estate spaces go, it's quite small. Still, it comes with heat and valet service, sits in a tony Boston neighborhood and costs a mere $160,000.

Your car will thank you.

The escalating cost of parking, long a premium in Boston, hit home for many when it was learned that a 180-square-foot parking spot sold last month for $160,000 at the Brimmer Street Garage in the Beacon Hill neighborhood.

As prices for some spaces exceed the cost of a single-family house in other parts of the state, even seasoned real estate agents are muttering, "Whoa."

"I've said that on a number of occasions," said Richard Phipps, owner of Boston Real Estate Agents.

Since January 2003, seven spots have sold at the Brimmer Street Garage for at least $140,000, with one spot selling for a record $167,500 last August.

By comparison, a three-bedroom home in Westfield was listed for $159,900 this week, one of several listed under $160,000 in that western Massachusetts city.

Eye-popping as the prices are, broker John Forger, a 35-year veteran of the Boston real estate market, noted that people who pay $3 million for a Beacon Hill residence aren't going to worry much about a high-priced parking space.

"It's a lifestyle," he said.

Boston's prices, though high, don't top the national market.

In New York, spots range from $150,000 to $250,000 and in crowded San Francisco they max out at about $200,000, said Dick Delaney, a developer at Chicago-based Mark Goodman & Associates who specializes in the parking market. In Chicago, spots range from $30,000 to $80,000, he said.

The high prices are also found overseas. In February, a Londoner made headlines by listing a spot at $187,500.

Not all parking spots in Boston's exclusive neighborhoods are worth the equivalent of 12 Honda Civics. Spots in the South End can be had for a much more reasonable $39,000 to $100,000, according to data from the Listing Information Network Inc., a real estate information service that tracks the downtown condo market.

Phipps said the pricey spots can sometimes make good financial sense. The cost of frequent parking tickets - $15 to $120, depending on the offense - or daily parking rates in the $20 to $30 range can approach the monthly payment on a mortgage for some spaces, he said.

Beacon Hill's high prices reflect its desirability, tight parking aside, Forger said. The neighborhood of brick row houses and gas street lamps is packed with history, beautiful architecture and money. It's where Democratic presidential hopeful John Kerry and his wife Teresa Heinz Kerry have a home.

But even here, six-figure parking spaces are beyond the reach of most residents, said Tom Cullinane, 44, a stay-at-home dad who lives on Beacon Hill.

"That's another solar system," he said.