Vanishing Views – Buyer Beware
“Views shouldn’t be taken for granted. With all of the construction projects in the City, many people are learning this lesson the hard way.”
Property Spotlight – On the Market
- 95 Beacon Street, unit 6/7 – Timeless Tradition on the Public Garden – Offered at $6.495 Million
Well Bought/Well Sold
- 260 Beacon Street, unit 5 – Hideous Building, Decent Unit – Well Bought
- 100 Beacon Street, unit 1C – Great Property, But the Fees? – Well Sold
Vanishing Views – Buyer Beware
Good views are universally at the top of most buyers’ wish lists. Views are especially important with high-end urban property. Everyone wants to look out over something pleasant – water, distant skyline, or green space. If you’ve got good views, chances are pretty good that you’ll also get good natural “light and air,” critical components of luxury property. Views shouldn’t be taken for granted, and with all of the construction projects in the City, many people are learning this lesson the hard way.
We recently toured unit 1612 at the original Four Seasons on Boylston Street. The unit, which is offered at $5.999 million (2,216/sf), was a disappointment to us. Without going into the details, it’s pretty much as it sat when it traded back in 2015 for $3.8 million ($1,376/sf) (it subsequently traded again in 2018 for $5.4 million). It’s been on the rental market for the last few years and in our opinion is a bit long in the tooth.
We did like the sunlight from the expansive southern views, right up until we noticed that the view shed looks directly across the neighboring Motor Mart parking garage – the site of an approved 28 story residential tower. While the new tower may not completely obstruct the views, it will definitely change them – not for the better as we see it.
We should point out that there are currently no signs of construction at the Motor Mart. It’s not uncommon for these approved projects to sit idle for years before construction begins. Beyond changing the view, we should also point out that living next to a multi-year large scale construction site is never pleasant.
This situation isn’t unique. Just down the street, the new Raffles development is meaningfully obstructing the westerly views from The Clarendon (400 Stuart Street). Over in the Seaport, the St. Regis condominium project has blocked some water views from the Echelon.
Don’t expect sellers and their sales agents to point these kinds of things out. In a buyer beware state like Massachusetts, they don’t have any obligation to do so. Make no mistake, sellers are painfully aware of these issues.
The Four Seasons condominium association retained attorneys to object to the Motor Mart project. In a 2018 letter to the City, their attorney complained about potential noise, shadows, and demanded renderings of the new tower, stating that, “The residents of the Four Seasons should not have to guess what the Proposed Project will look like from their homes.”
Batterymarch Group is focused on buyer representation, so the highlighted listings are not ours. These are our opinions, so take them with a grain of salt. We’re happy to set up showings of these properties, offer our valuation analysis, and assist with preliminary renovation budgets when needed.
95 Beacon Street, unit 6/7 – Timeless Tradition on the Public Garden – Offered at $6.495 Million
Unit 6/7 at 95 Beacon Street, a spacious 2,552 square foot 2 bedroom floor through with direct elevator access, is currently offered at $6.495 million ($2,545/sf). The unit last sold for $3.475 million six years ago. Since then, it’s undergone a comprehensive high quality renovation.
We think the location here is about as good as it gets in the City, although some may find the intersection of Beacon and Arlington Streets a bit too busy. From our perspective, being directly across from the Public Garden and on the Back Bay/Beacon Hill border is ideal.
This second floor unit features 12.5 foot ceilings with floor to ceiling front facing windows. We’re sensitive to street noise and we were impressed by the window sound-proofing on the Beacon Street side. The style of the apartment is more traditional, a refreshing departure from the ubiquitous white and gray color palette and open floor plan that is all the rage. The aesthetic is definitely not for everyone, but we think it will stand the test of time.
We’re struggling with the valuation. $6.495 million without parking ($700/month rental parking is available) and no private outdoor space is tough to swallow. It looks like 5 of the 11 units in the building have been rentals – we’d prefer 100% owner occupancy. We’d also go through the building budget carefully as the monthly fee has only increased by $136 over the last six years.
This is a great oversized 2 bedroom unit, but $2,545/sf seems way too aggressive to us. While we wouldn’t be surprised if they get close to their price, we’d peg the market correct value somewhere under $2,000/sf.
Well Bought/Well Sold
260 Beacon Street, unit 5 – Hideous Building, Decent Unit – Well Bought
After being on and off the market since 2018, unit 5 at 260 Beacon Street has a new owner. The final sale price came in at $2.995 million ($1,152/sf), 14% below the original asking price.
People doing renovation work in the Back Bay often get frustrated with the historic preservation bureaucracy, but one look at this eyesore and you’ll be giving those bureaucrats thanks and praise. The more we look at the exterior of the building, the harder it is on our eyes.
The good news is that it gets a bit better once inside the unit. A fair amount of detail has survived, and being a double wide building with 12 foot ceilings, the unit is spacious. There are good river views, direct elevator access, and one assigned parking space.
This is an older condominium conversion (1970) and the unit had been on the rental market for years – it has that “rode hard, put away wet” feel. Twenty five percent of the units in the building have been rentals which can be problematic.
At $1,152/sf the value is reasonable and the new owner will have some renovation runway to work with. We’d be careful not to over do it on a renovation as the unit can never divorce itself from the building’s hideous exterior. We’re holding our nose and calling this one – Well Bought.
100 Beacon Street, unit 1C – Great Property, But the Fees? – Well Sold
Unit 1C at 100 Beacon, a 1,984 square foot 3 bedroom, changed hands for $3.105 million ($1,565/sf), an 11% discount to the 2019 original asking price. We’ve commented on the building in the past, so we won’t rehash it all here, except to say that we like the building and location.
This first floor unit has a good sized private outdoor terrace facing the river. Located on the north side of the building, the terrace isn’t ideal for sun worshipers. Additionally, being on a low floor the view isn’t great and it can be noisy. Nonetheless, this outdoor space is far more functional than most roof decks.
The big problem we see at 100 Beacon is the high monthly fee – nearly $3,000 per month for unit 1C (without parking). The building is staffed, but we’d stop short of calling it a full service building. One seller in the building recently offered to pre-pay 9 months of fees to entice a buyer. Clearly there is an issue with the cost structure.
The valuation is in line with recent sales in the building (when everyone else overpays there is comfort in numbers). Normally we’d expect a first floor unit to trade at a discount, but in this case the private terrace was the offsetting factor. There’s a lot to like about this property, but the market will wake up to the high fee issue at some point, it was – Well Sold.
About Batterymarch Group LLC – Batterymarch Group is an independent full service real estate brokerage and advisory firm focused on the downtown Boston high-end residential market. We represent both sellers and buyers with a sharp focus on valuation. We also offer sub-advisory and owner’s representation services to financial institutions, family offices, and trustees.
About Andrew Haigney – A 25 year Wall Street veteran, Andrew held senior positions at leading global investment banking institutions where he routinely valued and negotiated complex securities transactions on behalf of institutional clients. Andrew has been an outspoken advocate of a universal fiduciary standard. In founding Batterymarch Group, Andrew brings that same discipline and passion to the real estate brokerage.