Batterymarch Insider

Batterymarch Group LLC is a full service independent real estate brokerage firm specializing in the downtown Boston market. More about our services here. “The Batterymarch Insider” is a brief snapshot of our current market thinking. As always, our “terms of use” apply. We encourage you to subscribe.

Special Spring Inventory Edition

Property Spotlight – On the Market

  • 220 Boylston Street, unit 1205/07/09 – $5,352/sf, Seriously? – $18.0 million ($5,352/sf)
  • 1 Huntington Ave. unit PH1802 – Great Unit, Mediocre Building – $7.995 million ($2,757/sf)
  • 1 Dalton Street, unit 4305 – Complete With the Finest Used Furniture – $7.5 million ($3,428/sf)
  • 776 Boylston Street, unit E9-D – That Well Lived in Feel – $5.5 million ($2,495/sf)
  • 96 Beacon Street, unit 2 – “The Walk Out Level” – $5.499 million ($1,942/sf)
  • 71 Mount Vernon Street, unit 3-5 – Beacon Hill Value Play! – $4.8 million ($1,234/sf)
  • 20 Charles River Square – Great Condominium Alternative – $4.1 million ($1,374/sf)
  • 82 Mount Vernon Street, unit 1 – Will the Third Time Be the Charm? – $3.249 million ($1,842/sf)

Well Bought/Well Sold

  • 28 Mount Vernon, unit 2 – A Lackluster Bidding War? Great Apartment  – Well Bought
  • 48 Commonwealth Ave, unit 2 – The Rising Tide Lifts All Values? We Think Not – Well Sold

Property Spotlight

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.

Spring Inventory – Quick Takes

220 Boylston Street, unit 1205/07/09 – $5,352/sf, Seriously? – $18.0 million ($5,352/sf)
The old Four Seasons – Back Bay

A recent Wall Street Journal article identified the seller of this unit at the old Four Seasons as the well known automotive retailer Herb Chambers. The article highlighted that this unit was Herb’s temporary digs as he waited for his place to be completed at the new Four Seasons over by Symphony Hall.

According to the Journal, Herb paid $8.8 million ($2,616/sf) for the 3,363 square foot unit (it’s actually three units combined) back in 2016 and subsequently did an extensive renovation. We’d guess that the pricing is driven by the slightly larger penthouse unit at 2 Commonwealth that traded late last fall for $15.0 million ($4,172/sf) which was originally offered at just over $5,000/sf.

Without going into all of the details, it’s our view that the Commonwealth Avenue property is in a totally different league, particularly with respect to the amazing outdoor space – arguably the very best in the city.

Over the last 18 months, the average selling price per square foot at the old Four Seasons was $1,618. We’re the first to acknowledge that many of the units that have traded are in need of renovation, and some don’t overlook the park. Herb’s unit is definitely worth a big premium, but by our way of thinking, that premium looks to be about what he paid back in 2016. Time will tell.

1 Huntington Ave. Unit PH1802 – Great Unit, Mediocre Building – $7.995 million ($2,757/sf)
1 Huntington Ave. Back Bay

Developed back in 1999, 1 Huntington (Trinity Place) is one of the original Back Bay 2.0 developments (see Back Bay 2.0). As we’ve previously pointed out, the location is great but we think the curb appeal is horrible and the architecture isn’t our favorite – it looks a bit like a high rise version of City Hall.

We like this 2,864 square foot 3 bedroom unit, particularly the three exposures, and the quality of the finishes look to be well executed. The building is staffed, with valet parking, so that explains the roughly $5,000 a month condominium fee. The views are good, but we’d be concerned about the old Lord & Taylor site getting developed and how that may impact the views down the road.

Getting someone to pay for your renovation can be tricky as people at this price point have their own aesthetic in mind. At $2,756/sf there are a lot of choices in sparkling new developments that are heavy on amenities. That said, at the right price, this would be a great home and should be on your short list.

1 Dalton Street, unit 4305 – Complete With the Finest Used Furniture – $7.5 million ($3,428/sf)
1 Dalton – The Prince of Darkness

The interesting thing about unit 4305, a 2,188 square foot 2 bedroom at the new Four Seasons is that it comes with “the finest of select furnishings valued close to $1.0 million.” First, we understand that there are still long lead times to get new and custom furniture, but the rule of thumb when it comes to the value of used furniture is that it’s worth what you could get for it at a garage sale. Second, personal property (i.e. furniture) should not be included in the sale of the real estate as you end up paying a hefty brokerage commission on the furniture.

As we went to press this unit reported a contract, we’d hope at a much lower price. The seller here bought the unit less than two years ago for $5.52 million, even with the designer furniture a nearly $2.0 million markup seems a bit excessive to us. Next time you’re out after dusk, look up and you’ll see how dark the building is – does anyone actually live there?

776 Boylston Street, unit E9-D (Mandarin Oriental) – That Well Lived in Feel – $5.5 million ($2,495/sf)
Mandarin Oriental – Back Bay

There seems to be a lot of turnover at 776 Boylston Street (Mandarin Oriental) and we’d chalk it up to demographics. Built in 2008, many of the units that have been hitting the market are owned by the original owners. 14 years is about the average holding period for most homeowners.

Unit E9-D, a 2,204 square foot 2 bedroom fits that profile – it definitely has that well lived in feel. The valuation is pretty straight forward on this one. In today’s market, we’d say that if the unit was nicely updated $2,500/sf would be reasonable. It’s hard to imagine getting away with a quality renovation for less than $400/sf – as it sits, we’d say that the market correct value is around $2,100+/- per square foot.  

96 Beacon Street, unit 2 – “The Walk Out Level” – $5.499 million ($1,942/sf)
96 Beacon St. – Beacon Hill

Any time a unit turns over three times in roughly a two year period, you have to ask yourself – is there something wrong with the place?

Unit 2 at 96 Beacon, a 2,831 square foot 3 bedroom, sold in February of 2020 for $5.2 million (well sold). A few months later it was put up for sale for $5.65 million and finally found a buyer at $5.45 million in February of this year (even more well sold). After just two months, the current owner called it quits and listed the property for $5.499 million.

Is there something wrong with the place? That’s anyone’s guess. We like the location, although it’s a busy intersection. The main level of the unit is great – high ceilings, practical outdoor space, and good afternoon sunlight. All three bedrooms are in the basement, or what the listing agent calls the “walk out level,” and that’s a problem in our book – $5.0+ million is a lot of scratch to live in the basement.

Proceed with caution!

71 Mount Vernon Street, unit 3-5 – Beacon Hill Value Play! – $4.8 million ($1,234/sf)
71 Mount Vernon St. – Beacon Hill

Properties like 71 Mount Vernon Street (unit 3-5) get us excited. Nearly 4,000 square feet on Mount Vernon Street that has been under long term ownership. Yes, it needs a full blown renovation and done right that won’t be cheap or quick, but the final product may end up being one of the nicest units on Beacon Hill.

We don’t think that $1,233/sf is completely unreasonable. Assuming you spend $700/sf renovating the place, you’d still be under $2,000/sf. That’s a bargain when you compare it to the nose bleed $3,351/sf asking price for the penthouse at 63 Mount Vernon.

We love the fact that there isn’t a set condominium fee. The listing notes that “unit 3-5 pays for insurance” – that’s what we call “old school.”

Someone needs to buy this place before it falls into the hands of a flipper!

20 Charles River Square – Great Condominium Alternative – $4.1 million ($1,374/sf)
Charles River Sq. – Beacon Hill

There’s been high turnover at Charles River Square in the last few years. While this may be explained by  demographics, as with all properties on the flat of the Beacon Hill, foundation pilings are always a concern. We’re unaware of any immediate piling issues, but given the turnover and the domino nature of piling work, we’d do some extra due diligence.

We like the scale of the houses on Charles River Square; at 3,000ish square feet they are great alternatives to condominiums. This house has been renovated in recent years and importantly the kitchen was moved from the basement up to the first floor. It could use some updating, but nothing radical. The HVAC looked to be getting on in age and we’d have that looked at before any offers.

82 Mount Vernon Street, unit 1 – Will the Third Time Be the Charm? – $3.249 million ($1,842/sf)
82 Mount Vernon St. – Beacon Hill

Unit 1 at 82 Mount Vernon Street, a 2018 condominium conversion and redevelopment, first sold in mid-2019 for $2.75 million. Less than a year later this 1,764 square foot 2 bedroom duplex sold for $3.1 million (well sold). It recently hit the market yet again, this time with an asking price of $3.249 million and it looks like they have an accepted offer.

We haven’t been in the unit since it was in the middle of being renovated. We were a little surprised that the developer opted for an ultra high velocity HVAC system. We’ve written about the pitfalls of these systems in the past – they have a reputation for being noisy and don’t always do a great job of distributing the hot or cold air. We found the system to be particularly noisy in the second bedroom.

Like 96 Beacon, this will be the third time the unit has turned over in a relatively short period. Maybe the third time will be the charm.

We noticed that the listing stated that roughly half the unit is above grade. In fairness, it is built into a grade, but the attached photo shows the unit’s front facing upper level windows (the floor that is “above grade”) – you can be the judge.

Well Bought/Well Sold

28 Mount Vernon, unit 2 – A Lackluster Bidding War? Great Apartment  – Well Bought
28 Mount Vernon – Beacon Hill

Unit 2 at 28 Mount Vernon has a new owner, changing hands for $5.9 million ($1,739/sf). We profiled this unit (see note), so we’ll spare you all the details. The bottom line is that we really like this unit and we speculated that they would probably get their price.

As it turns out, they did a little better than that. $50,000 better to be exact. We loath bidding wars and count our lucky stars that for the most part they aren’t really a thing downtown. In this case, you had an out of town listing agent and a suburban agent representing the buyer – this is how they do it in the ‘burbs. As far as bidding wars go, this was pretty lackluster at .85% above the asking price.

This goes against our mantra that there are no winners in a bidding war, but this is a great place and we’re calling it – Well Bought.

48 Commonwealth Ave, unit 2 – Does The Rising Tide Lifts All Values? We Think Not – Well Sold
48 Commonwealth – Back Bay

Unit 2 at 48 Commonwealth Avenue recently traded for $4.3 million ($2,168/sf) after six months on the market. This 1,983 square foot unit is a typical Back Bay two bedroom floor through. Located at the corner of Berkeley Street, it has exposures on three sides and with 124 feet of frontage along Berkeley, the unit gets plenty of afternoon sunlight. The 13 foot ceilings give a real sense of spaciousness, and there is garage parking for two cars.

The building was re-developed and converted into condominiums back in 2006. While this unit has had some cosmetic updates, we see $2,168/sf as a steep price for what is essentially a 16 year old renovation. Even if we back out the value of the parking, you’re still around $2,000/sf.

We’d venture to guess that the astronomical prices paid for the units across the street at 29 Commonwealth probably tipped the buyer over the edge to pull the trigger on this unit. It’s a nice unit in a great location, but we think the price was too high. A rising tide doesn’t necessarily lift the value of all real estate, it was – Well Sold.

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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.

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