Real estate mogul trying to grasp capricious market

Apartment units are springing up all over Boston.

Harold Brown knows his way around a real estate deal.

The 88-year-old chairman and chief executive of The Hamilton Company Inc., one of the largest privately held real estate companies operating in New England, has a track record that speaks for itself.

Brown's company is one of the top landlords in the Boston area, with 2.5 million-square-feet of commercial space and 5,500 residential units. His prowess includes him buying $300 million in apartment buildings during the Great Recession when everyone else was selling. Those buildings are now worth much more than that, and Harold's real estate empire is now said to be worth $1.4 billion, according to the Boston Globe.

Brown's dominance of the real estate market has made him an expert on when to buy and sell a property, but  even the most seasoned pros are questioning themselves after the housing bubble burst several years ago.

"It is the first time I can't predict," Harold told the Boston Globe.

Harold said that roughly 8,000 apartment units are being built in Boston and its neighboring suburbs, and he's not quite sure how that outpouring of units will affect the market.

A number of those places will go up in South Boston Waterfront, which was renamed by Mayor Tom Menino as the Innovation District. That district has attracted tech companies and now housing developers are looking to build units designed for people working in that area.

"Much of the boom is due to start-ups," Brown said, noting that can be troubling because they "have a high mortality rate."

But after the housing bubble burst, apartment buildings have become what banks are willing to finance. There are currently 5,000 residential units under construction in Boston and roughly 4,500 of those are all rentals, according to the Boston Redevelopment Authority.

No slowdown for The Hamilton Company purchases
Despite Brown feeling uneasy over the current state of the market – overbidding, an influx of foreign buyers – he and his company are still purchasing property.

The Hamilton Company recently acquired a 193-unit complex, known previously as Windsor Green in Andover, Mass., for $62.5 million.

"With this purchase, and several others slated for August, we will have acquired nearly $130 million of real estate for 2013," said Carl Valeri, president of The Hamilton Company. 

This marks Hamilton's first property in Andover. The complex was built in 2006.

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