Bates By the Numbers: Boston's First $20M Condo Is Closer Than You Think

Tom Acitelli

Here's the latest installment of Bates By the Numbers, a weekly feature by Boston real estate agent David Bates that drills down into the Hub's housing market to uncover those trends you would not otherwise see. Follow him on Twitter and check out his ebook, Context: Nine Key Condo Markets, 2.0.

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[Penthouse vu at 45 Province]
For more than 20 years, Diane Maloney has been representing many of Boston's highest-profile new condominium developments. I recently caught up with her to talk about this market's past, present and future. (Disclosure: Diane works for Raveis Marketing Group, which is one of the affiliated companies of William Raveis Real Estate, the brokerage where I work.)

I'll name a development that you participated in and you say the first thing that comes to your mind. The Four Seasons?
People think it's a great location right now, but when we did it [in 1985], it was not the best location in town. In fact, the old Playboy club was right behind it. We were selling at $600 to $700 a square foot and the buyers were mostly New York and international at the time because Bostonians really just didn't get full-service.

Trinity Place at 1 Huntington Avenue?
We were just coming out of the recession and the building was actually set as an apartment building. In the [purchase-and-sale agreement], we actually had that we had to have 80 percent sold before it would convert over to a condominium and we sold out before the building was finished [in 1999].

Minot Hall at 1723 Washington Street?
That was a nice little building down in an area that at the time [in 2002] was considered emerging. The price point was right, at $400 or $500 a square foot and it had parking, which was amazing for that area. It was much more South End people buying.

The Belvedere at 100 Belvedere Street?
We started out at about $750 to $850 a square foot and ended up well over a $1,000 a square foot, which was ground-breaking for that time [2003]. The best concept was the catering kitchen and breakfast and library on the first floor, which gave it a neighborhood feeling.

FP3 at 346 Congress Street?
It had the first really edgy look to a building in that area and the Seaport wasn't even beginning to be developed at that point [2008]. It was young, edgy and people willing to live in a neighborhood that was emerging, so not many empty-nesters there at all.

45 Province?
It was a very innovative design with a swimming pool and a lot of good amenities, including a large theater. People were moving from the South End who wanted to have parking and a full-service building. Beautifully done and amazing floor plans.

What do you think of the condominium development in Boston now?
It looks like to me that they are going to overbuild apartment buildings and we don't have any condominiums. So developers that are astute enough to get in the ground, either now or before now, to build some condominiums that are going to come on now or next year will be very successful with condominiums. In the next big market, you will see a lot of conversions.

How would you advise a buyer who wants to buy in a new development?
They should look into the credibility of the developer and how well the project is financed. …. If they want the best buy and get the best price, they should buy pre-construction, as long as they can visualize. Pre-construction buying is still your best buy.

What is the key to success for a developer?
To hire a good marketing firm that knows the market and will know how to guide the architect with the floor plan and what the market is looking for. You build to the market.

What do buyers want in new buildings in today's market?
They want to have a community in their building and they want to be able to walk to an exercise room and they want to be able to have concierge service. They're buying there for convenience. They don't want to have to run and take their laundry someplace. They want all of that done for them. What's happened is that the size of the units have shrunk a little bit, but the amenities have grown. They also want technology built into their units: smart homes, a place for their iPads, a computer nook.

Who is the buyer in this niche today?
Depends what building you are talking about. Really large full-service buildings such as Belvedere and Trinity are usually empty-nesters, like what's coming over at Christian Science; that's going to be a full service building and you are going to see mostly empty-nesters and internationals.

Will Boston sell a $20 million condo in one of these new buildings?
I think you are going to see it at the Christian Science building or at Simon's building over the Copley Mall.

Do you think some of the new buildings in Boston will be able to get $3,000 a square foot?
I think we'll definitely hit it in these high-end luxury buildings in Back Bay for sure. Our market is following New York and they're at $4,000 a square foot.
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