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:

  • 100 Beacon – Bidding Price War
  • New and Noteworthy – Lagrange Street, a “Sought After Location.” Seriously?
  • 20 Louisburg Square – Shhh… They Paid $15 Million – Well Sold
  • 388 Beacon Street – A Great Cooperative Apartment – Well Bought  

What’s Catching Our Eye

100 Beacon Street – Bidding Price War

Unit 1C at 100 Beacon Street, a 1,984 square foot 3 bedroom hit the market last week for $2.95 million ($1,468/sf). Located on the first floor facing the river, the unit has a nice private outdoor terrace. This unit last traded back in 2016 for $3.1 million, so it looks like the seller is motivated.

100 Beacon Street

There are currently two other three bedroom units offered for sale in the building. Both located just one floor up, units 2A and 2B have been on and off the market, or offered for rent, since the investor bought them back in 2013 (in 2013 unit 2A sold for $2.1 million, unit 2B sold for $2.05 million). Not surprisingly, the investor’s asking prices started off on the aspirational side (unit 2A was first offered at $3.75 million). 

The three units are basically identical. 1C has a private terrace perched just above one of the busiest intersections in the Back Bay. One of the second floor units faces Beacon Street and gets good sunlight and the other faces the river. So it didn’t surprise us when the new listing immediately triggered big price cuts on the second floor. They’re both now offered at $2.88 million.

This is a great pre-war building in a good location (notwithstanding the busy intersection). The building was renovated 14 years ago, so the units are starting to get a bit long in the tooth, but the big knock we see relates to the condominium fees which are just shy of $3,000/month (close to $1.50/square foot a month). You do get a 24 hour concierge, but we wouldn’t consider this a full service building.

High condominium fees have become a liquidity headwind in many of these staffed buildings. The $3,000ish monthly fees on these units would support about a $700,000 mortgage. Think of it as a mortgage obligation that you don’t pay down, and your payment will likely increase over time.

We’ll keep you posted as the 100 Beacon price wars unfold. We smell motivated sellers, and if you can stomach the high monthly fees, there could be good value here.

New and Noteworthy

7 Mount Vernon Place – That Was Fast

There may be some wisdom to our recent tongue and cheek comment that Mount Vernon Place may be the new Louisburg Square. With an asking price of $16 million, this developer accepted an offer in just over two weeks. If the final sale price is anything close to the asking price this could be a real home run.

Lagrange Street – “A Sought After Location” Seriously?

55 Lagrange Street

Banker and Tradesman ran a story this week titled “Boston is Back.” The article, written by a well known Boston real estate broker, is more or less a real estate sales puff piece. We agree with the article’s basic premise, that the downtown residential real estate market is strong, but we don’t fully agree with the author’s view that the market is stronger than ever.

What caught our attention was his plug for a new development at 55 Lagrange Street. This new 22 story building will consist of 176 “innovative luxury” (what ever that means) condominium units. Maybe the fact that there isn’t any parking, but instead an oversized bike room, is the innovation? The author concludes that buildings such as this with their high-end finishes in “sought-after locations” will sell rapidly. 

Not surprisingly, a few of the author’s sales agents have been highlighting this development on social media. It appears that his firm will be the marketing agent for the development.

“Innovative Luxury”?

It’s common knowledge that much of what is now referred to as mid-town or the theater district was previously the Combat Zone, Boston’s red light district. The area has been cleaned up and most of the strip clubs were closed down long ago. Most of them, that is. There are still two in operation and you guessed it, they are both located on Lagrange Street, just across from this development.

We doubt that any of our readers have been holding out to live on Lagrange Street. But if the thought crossed your mind, give us a call immediately, we need to talk.

Well Bought/Well Sold

20 Louisburg Square – Shhh… They Paid $15,000,000 – Well Sold

20 Louisburg Square has a new owner with a print of $15 million ($1,971/sf) off an asking price of $16 million. We should point out that the Registry of Deeds shows a transfer price of $100.00. While it’s not common, when properties are bought in a trust the actual purchase price can be papered over to keep it out of the public eye. We can see why buyers may want to do this, but when brokers and sales agents involved in the transaction grandstand the price on social media, well, the cat’s out of the bag.

20 Louisburg Square

We were somewhat surprised at this reported price. We had a client look at this house along with 17 Louisburg which traded for $13.5 million earlier this year – it was well sold. The quote we got to renovate 17 Louisburg came in at $5-7 million and to bring 20 Louisburg to the same level of finish would have been meaningfully more. We won’t nit-pick it, but we felt that 17 was a superior property.

When we see prices that, by our way of thinking, are “off the market” we take a closer look and try to better understand what we may have missed. Anecdotally, these transactions often involve either dual agency (when the same broker represents both the buyer and seller), buyers from out of town, or out of town sales agents. These buyers used a very experienced suburban sales agent who, as far as we can tell (and we went back 15 years in MLS records), has never had a transaction in Boston.

According to MLS data, this is a record high price per square foot for a single family in Boston. We’re the first to recognize that Louisburg Square is the gold standard of New England real estate, but as we see it, this was all the money. We’re calling it very – Well Sold.

388 Beacon Street, unit 3 – A Great Co-Op Apartment – Well Bought

Apartment 3 at 388 Beacon Street, a 2,969 square foot 4 bedroom cooperative apartment changed hands last week for $4 million ($1,347/sf). The original price was $5.2 million back in May of 2020, which wasn’t an ideal time to list a property in the City.

388 Beacon Street

Built in 1926, this development spans from 360 – 388 Beacon Street and consists of four separate buildings in a campus like setting with walkways separating the buildings. The advantage of this set up is that each of the 12 apartments have windows on three sides.

This penthouse level unit is in need of some updating, but we’re not talking about tearing out walls. The listing agent told us that there is a possibility of installing a private roof deck with the co-op board’s approval. The apartment comes with one parking space, two above grade storage rooms, and a “wood room” (to feed the five fireplaces).

This is a cooperative apartment which isn’t for everyone. Well run co-op boards run a tight ship. Some people find this restrictive, but it keeps the riffraff out. The financial workings of co-ops are different from their condominium cousins, and there is a perception that they are more expensive. These issues turn off a lot of buyers which reduces re-sale liquidity. We think co-op benefits outstrip these issues, and the buyer of this apartment did well, we’re calling it – Well Bought.

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