The Batterymarch Insider

“The Batterymarch Insider” is a brief snapshot of our current market thinking and some highlights of what we see going on in the downtown Boston market. As always, our “terms of use” apply. We encourage you to subscribe.

In this issue:

  • Why the Back Bay is the Proxy for the Boston Luxury Market
  • “Luxury” – The Most Abused Term in Real Estate
  • 170 West Brookline – Impressive Single Family with Impressive Price
  • 342 Marlborough Street, unit 1- Seller Had the Upper Hand – Well Sold
  • 110 Stuart Street, unit 18B – Catching the Falling Sward? – Well Sold

What’s Catching Our Eye

With winter fast approaching, many sellers are opting to take their property off the market until the spring rolls around. The added bonus for sellers is that when properties are removed from the MLS system for 60 days or more, the days on market resets to zero when they are re-listed.

Currently there are 150 condominiums listed for sale in the Back Bay versus 95 a year ago. In the past six weeks, 57 listings were canceled versus 25 a year ago. Adding back the canceled listings brings this year’s current inventory to 207 listings versus 120 a year ago. The take away is that we will be carrying a lot of inventory into the spring market which will likely keep the supply/demand balance tipped in favor of buyers.

Note: We’re often asked why we use Back Bay condominium inventory as a proxy for the “downtown” Boston market. The answer is that the Back Bay has the least amount of large scale new developments relative to other neighborhoods, which makes the Back Bay data cleaner year over year.

Keep an eye out for our “2021 Year Ahead” report.

Luxury” – Perhaps the Most Abused Term in Real Estate

100 Shawmut

The other day I was listening to a podcast as I walked over the Mass Turnpike. I went to turn up the volume only to discover that it was already full blast. The ambient noise from the turnpike, subway line, and Amtrak was completely overwhelming. As I looked around, I couldn’t help but notice a huge sign announcing “Luxury Condominiums” – I was standing in front of the new development at 100 Shawmut Avenue.

Far be it for us to be the arbiter of what constitutes luxury, but looking up at this shiny new building, I tried to envision myself enjoying a morning cup of coffee while reading news headlines on the balcony of a $2.0+ million two bedroom condominium. This is just one person’s opinion, so take it with a grain of salt, but this is a hard no for us – this isn’t our idea of luxury living.

To be fair, they say these buildings are all about the amenities which we haven’t seen. That said, the “rooftop sky lounge,” billiards room, and pet spa would have to be pretty spectacular to change our view.

170 West Brookline – South End Single Family

170 West Brookline

We previewed 170 West Brookline this week, a newly renovated single family in the South End. It’s not too often that we walk out of these properties and say to ourselves, “wow, they nailed it” (ok, we could do without the gold fixtures in the master bathroom). Elevator with stops on all floors, two car garage with a heated driveway for two additional cars, very well executed flooring… the list goes on.

The new rear windows are the real show stopper. Changing windows in the city is tricky business and in most places it’s completely out of the question. These floor to ceiling windows bring this house that was built in the mid 1800s squarely into the twenty first century.

The asking price is $6,350,000, which would make it the second highest single family sale in the South End according to MLS data. The developer paid $3,100,000 for the property in the spring of 2019 (for what was then perhaps one of the most hideous houses I’ve ever stepped foot in) and did an amazing job transforming it. Time will tell what the market has to say about the valuation, but at that price point, there are a lot of attractive options throughout the city.

Well Bought/Well Sold

We’re seeing market weakness in buildings that were developed in the past 10 years. We suspect that the buyer pool for these kind of developments want to be in the latest “it” buildings. As the inventory in these “has-been” buildings stacks up, we expect pricing will continue to be under pressure.

This week we’re contrasting two sales that illustrate this trend. One, a relatively generic Back Bay lower level duplex, and the other in a newish, blinged out, full service high rise in the Theater District. These units traded for about the same price 4 – 5 years ago, this time around the results were very different.

342 Marlborough Street unit 1 – Well Sold

342 Marlborough Street

Unit 1 at 342 Marlborough Street, a two bedroom, two bathroom, 1,653 sf lower level duplex changed hands this week for $2,150,000 after 151 days on the market. The original asking price here was $2,490,000, one price reduction of $100,000 did the trick to attract the buyer.

We were in the unit the last time it sold, and as far as we can tell, the seller, who paid $1,800,000 in December of 2016, didn’t change a thing (good move). The condominium fees are a reasonable $3,600 a year and the deeded parking space is just outside the back door.

The sellers here got to enjoy living on one of the most desirable streets in the city and booked a gain on the sale of nearly a quarter million dollars after paying a 5% commission. What pandemic? We’re calling this one – Well Sold.

110 Stuart Street (The W) unit 18B – Well Sold

110 Stuart Street – The “W”

A few weeks ago we pointed out that there were a couple of units at the W that are being offered at small discounts to where they sold several years ago. This week unit 18B, a 1,794 square foot, 2 bedroom, 2.5 bathroom, with one valet parking space traded for $1,840,000.

Public records indicate that the seller bought the unit in June of 2015 for $1,845,000. The $5,000 loss isn’t really meaningful in the big picture, but when you tack on the typical 5% commission the hit was closer to $100,000. The condominium fees for this unit run a bit over $25,000 a year, but the seller got to hang out at the swanky W Hotel lounge and use the gym (it makes a membership at the Equinox look like a bargain). We’re on the fence on this one, is the buyer grabbing the falling sword, or did they get a good deal? Our gut tells us that this one was – Well Sold.

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