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:

  • 135 Commonwealth Ave PH – Faux Luxury?
  • 122 Beacon St., unit 4 – 1980s Time Capsule With an Unfortunate Exterior 
  • 61 Mount Vernon St., unit 3 – A Rare Win-Win on Beacon Hill

What’s Catching Our Eye

135 Commonwealth Ave PH – Faux Luxury?

Perhaps our biggest pet peeve relates to mediocre real estate being passed off as luxury. Defining luxury can be subjective, but when we see a “no expense spared” 3,500 square foot penthouse on Commonwealth Ave being offered for $7.75 million ($2,214/sf), we assume it’s a luxury property. 

135 Commonwealth Ave.

Let’s start with the good. This 4 bedroom unit gets great sunlight, an open floor plan, large roof deck, two car parking, and is in a great Back Bay location. So far so good.

Here’s the rub. For starters, this is a top floor walk up. We’re not anti-stairs and we acknowledge that lugging groceries up flights of stairs would keep us in tip top shape. But at this price point, the thought of living like a pack mule doesn’t work for us.

Our biggest gripe with this unit is the HVAC system. Without question, HVAC systems are some of the most overlooked aspects of the real estate buying process. This is particularly true in our urban market where HVAC systems are typically packed into extremely tight spaces making them difficult to service, and they can be extremely costly to replace.

It would be pretty difficult to overlook the HVAC system at 135 Commonwealth as they opted to lay over a ductless HVAC system – with the unsightly blower units hanging on the walls. Some rooms appear to have old school radiators which are presumably still tied into the building’s boiler.

At this end of the market, luxury buyers should demand state of the art, fully integrated HVAC systems with proper humidity control. If you’re spending close to $8.0 million for an apartment, it’s not unreasonable to expect to be comfortable year round.

Well Bought/Well Sold

122 Beacon St., unit 4 – 1980s Time Capsule with an Unfortunate Exterior – Well Sold 

Unit 4, a 2,489 square foot three bedroom mid-building duplex at 122 Beacon Street changed hands last week for $3.75 million ($1,506/sf) after 96 days on the market, an 11% discount to the original asking price. $1,506/sf may not seem unreasonable for a river side duplex, but unlike many building configurations, this duplex is not at the penthouse level. Your ceiling is someone else’s floor, and in this case the unit directly above is currently a rental.

122 Beacon Street

The other red flag for us is that the last time this unit traded was back in 1981 for $247,500 when the building was converted into condominiums. We need to remind ourselves what the world was like 40 years ago. The population in Boston was at the tail end of a 30 year decline, the economy was in recession and interest rates were hovering around 20%. Many landlords were forced to sell off condominium units and weren’t shy about cutting corners with respect to construction quality.

A comprehensive middle of the road renovation for a unit like this can easily run north of $300/sf. That puts your cost at $1,800/sf (it will probably be higher) for a non-penthouse with no private outdoor space in a building with what we can best describe as having an unfortunate exterior.

We’d say the price here was ill advised. It also should be noted that the seller resorted to raising the buyer agent compensation from 2% to 2.5% during the marketing process to get this deal done. We’re calling it – Well Sold.

61 Mount Vernon St., unit C – Great Apartment, a Rare Win-Win – Well Bought

61 Mount Vernon Street

Unit C at 61 Mount Vernon Street traded this week for $4.0 million ($1,413/sf) after 176 days on the market, an 8% discount to the original asking price. Sporting 23 windows, this four bedroom, 2,830 square foot single floor unit was designed and renovated by one of the most respected contractors in the City.

The building is graciously set back from Mount Vernon Street, it’s 100% owner occupied, and has frontage on both Mount Vernon and Pinckney Streets. Sitting at the top of Walnut Street, this is a prime Beacon Hill location.

Pros: Location, high end recent renovation, elevator, single floor living, well designed floor plan, easy access to rental parking.

Cons: no parking, no outdoor space.

This is a true blue chip Beacon Hill property in our book. The seller got a market correct price and the buyer is getting a great unit, it’s a rare win-win for everyone. We love the unit and it’s a fair price, we’re going to call this one  – Well Bought.

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