History and culture abound in Boston—skyscrapers nestle next to historic hotels while modern market places line the antique cobblestone streets. Yet, the New England city is more than just a quaint tourist stop. Prominent hospitals and prestigious schools place Boston firmly on the international stage; strong biotechnology and life sciences industries draw investment and a young, educated work force, and a wave of new development is revitalising the downtown core. So far in 2015, driven by a strong local labour market and low interest rates, the city’s housing market is seeing near record levels of activity. “As our economy is strengthening, more buyers are making their move to purchase real estate, especially among entry-level buyers, empty nesters and overseas investors,” says Frank Celeste of Gibson Sotheby’s International Realty. “It’s a very exciting time for luxury real estate in Boston with some big name developers working on new projects,” agrees Brian Warner Dougherty, a partner at
So far in 2015, driven by a strong local labour market and low-interest rates, the city’s housing market is seeing near record levels of activity. “As our economy is strengthening, more buyers are making their move to purchase real estate, especially among entry-level buyers, empty nesters and overseas investors,” says Frank Celeste of Gibson Sotheby’s International Realty. “It’s a very exciting time for luxury real estate in Boston with some big name developers working on new projects,” agrees Brian Warner Dougherty, a partner at Robert Paul Properties in Boston. But he says despite new projects entering the market, demand for luxury product continues to outpace supply, making acquisition very challenging. “Luxury properties are staying on the market for fewer days before being sold. Relative to 2014, the city-wide luxury properties are trading for an average of 98 percent of asking price.”
Boston is best known for charming historic neighbourhoods like Back Bay and Beacon Hill with their gas-lit lanterns, cobblestone streets and Victorian-era townhomes. Luxury residences here are highly coveted and prices are approaching US$2,000psf, agents say. Other prime neighbourhoods include Boston’s artsy South End, which is popular among families and young professionals, and Downtown, where a wave of new development is changing the urban landscape.
- • Buyers are active and demand is strong as the average days on the market continues to decrease and price points continue to climb on an upward trend. Total sales are up along with record sales prices.
• Sales of detached single-family homes increased nine percent year-on-year to 1,895 sold in July 2015. In the condo market, activity improved 10.6 percent, climbing to 1,323 sales in July 2015.
• A new record median selling price of US$692,000 in the second quarter of 2015 surpassed the previous price of US$660,000 seen in the first quarter of 2014. Meanwhile, luxury condominiums have reached a new record average price of US$1,289psf.
The area around Downtown Crossing is a relatively new destination for luxury homes. In the latter half of the 20th century, the former commercial zone degenerated into a seedy stretch of strip clubs and discount stores. But starting in the early 2000s, the area has become home to an increasing number of high-end shopping centres, theatres and luxury residential spaces. Millennium Partners have been integral to this urban renewal. The developers built the Ritz-Carlton Residences in 2001 and Millennium Place in 2013, creating a new benchmark for living downtown, and they are currently building their most ambitious project to date, the Millennium Tower Boston.
Designed by Handel Architects, the 60-story glass tower will be Boston’s tallest residential building with 442 residences and a full roster of amenities including 24-hour concierge, valet service and a two level health club with a gym, Olympic length pool, spa, and a series of function rooms. The project also incorporates a signature dining experience by Michelin-starred chef Michael Mina and the “LaVie” program, a resident program that offers monthly social events, guest speakers and entertainment. “What distinguishes this building is the lifestyle,” says Richard Beaumert, partner at Millennium Partners. “We learned a lot from the branded residences we developed in the early 2000s. Everything in the building is geared toward the experience of residents. It’s like an urban country club.”
As of September 2015, the building was more than 90 percent sold. The remaining units include Grand Residences and Penthouses, which occupy the building’s top five floors. The pinnacle unit is a 13,000sf penthouse listed for US$37.5million that features a wrap-around terrace and 360-degree views of the city, including the harbour, the Charles River and neighbouring Cambridge. “These are views you’ve never had before from a private residence in Boston,” says Beaumert. Other condominium projects currently in the pipeline for downtown include the 61-storey Four Seasons Residences, scheduled for completion in 2017, which will feature units with high ceilings (11 feet and rising to 14 feet in the penthouses), fireplaces, hardwood floors, and curved glass windows. Three 8,000sf penthouses will be perched atop the tower.
In the rapidly transforming Seaport District, Tishman Speyer has also announced a new project called Pier 4 where apartments will offer views of Boston’s downtown and harbour. Amenities include a sun deck with an outdoor pool and underground parking.
Smaller projects and one-off condos are also being developed throughout Back Bay and Beacon Hill. The Maison Vernon project on Beacon Hill will bring seven luxury residences to market later this year at approximately US$1975psf. Location continues to be a driving factor in condo sales and pricing, agents say. Buyers are looking for new construction or recent renovations with timeless and classic features. “When looking to purchase a home in Boston, buyers look for properties in a full-service building in a central location. Along with top-of-the-line appliances, buyers look to buildings that feature concierge services, abundant storage, parking and outdoor space,” says Frank Celeste.
This is particularly true of foreign buyers, who are increasingly active in the Boston market. “Boston now captures the attention of buyers who had once only looked at New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Miami,” says Brian Dougherty. This includes buyers from China, who made up more than a third of international purchases in 2014, according to a recent survey by Gibson Sotheby’s International Realty. Many are buying for their children who attend university or medical school in Boston and are also looking to invest in a trusted market.
When it comes to the local market, luxury buyers are often looking for a city residence as an alternative to homes they keep in the suburbs or vacation homes in nearby Cape Cod, Nantucket or Martha’s Vineyard. A penthouse unit at the Millennium Tower Boston recently sold to a buyer whose primary residence is a Boston suburb 15 miles away.
Boston at a glance
Boston is one of the world’s best-known academic hubs and ranks as the world’s sixth best city for students according to qs top university rankings.
Top ranking universities include Massachusetts institute of Technology (MIT), Harvard university, Boston university, tufts University, Brandeis
- University, Boston College and Northeastern university.
Boston ranks low on affordability, however, with tuition fees exceeding US$40,000 per year.
This Story was first published in Palace Magazine