The dollar volume of real estate sales on Martha’s Vineyard was far higher in 1999 than in any previous year, reaching almost $350 million. The previous record, in 1998, was about $308 million.

Although it has been clear in recent years that a real estate boom is sweeping the Island, the figures are stark proof. The current boom began in 1996, when the total real estate sales for the year reached $186 million, climbing to $243 million the following year. The last two years have been simply astonishing.

Islanders refer to the boom of the 1980s with wonderment, and indeed a decade ago a dollar meant more than it does now. Even so, the peak real estate year was 1987, which had a dollar volume of $186 million. The boom became bust, bottoming out in 1990, when total sales were less than $94 million.

All these figures on the value of real estate sales are based on the revenues of the Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank, which charges a two per cent fee on most transactions. Simply multiplying the land bank revenues — more than $6.9 million in 1999 — by 50 will reveal the market dollar volume. It comes to just under $349 million for the year just ended.

And as for the so-called “high end” of the market leading the way, the figures are telling. In 1994, there were 42 transactions between $500,000 and $1 million, for a total market value of more than $40 million, or 31 per cent of the market. In that year there were 12 transactions of $1 million or higher, generating something more than $20 million in total sales, or 15 per cent of the market. That’s a high-end market share of 46 per cent.

Basically, those numbers have steadily climbed.

Take a look at 1999. There were 140 transactions between $500,000 and $1 million, with total sales prices of $194 million, or 56 per cent of the market. There were 47 sales of $1 million or more, generating more than $130 million, or 37 per cent of the market.

That means that last year sales of $500,000 or more accounted for 93 per cent of the Martha’s Vineyard real estate market. Affordable housing it ain’t.

Real estate professionals are puzzling over trends. “It’s so hard to predict,” said Justine Priestley of Priestley and Smadbeck in Vineyard Haven. “It’s the first time in 16 years in real estate on the Island that I haven’t been extremely confident in giving an opinion. It’s so dramatically different.”

She noted the booming national stock market and said, “I think people who can afford to, take some of their money out of the market and put it into real estate.” She also noted that some owners of second homes on the Vineyard now appear to be offering more modest properties for sale in an effort to cash in on the market. But, she admitted, “there aren’t many new listings.”

Deborah Hancock, whose real estate firm is based in Chilmark, said that “there’s still plenty of demand, but there’s almost no inventory on the waterfront. There are some with water views, and they are all over $2 million. I sold three or four inland places last summer with no water view and no beach access, and they went for well over $1 million.”

At this traditionally slow time of year, she said, “there are still people flying in in the middle of the week to look at properties. I’ve been waiting for it to slow down for a year or two and it hasn’t happened.”

Gerret Conover Jr., based in Edgartown, said the boom “is just a continuation of what we’ve seen the last couple of years.” Talk of building moratoriums and caps is making real estate “more desirable and more precious,” he said.

He also sees a future trend, one that hasn’t yet begun.

“There have been sales of high-priced old homes and land,” Mr. Conover said, “but so far we haven’t seen big-time properties that have been improved put back on the market. When people have spent millions of dollars to acquire a place and then put millions more into it, and then put what is basically a turn-key operation up for sale, the prices will appreciate even more.”

There was one startling sale of 80 acres in West Tisbury for $12 million last year, and that foreshadows the future, Mr. Conover believes. “The top properties in the next few years will sell in the $7.5 to $12 million range,” he said.