Boston Magazine 2/26/19: These Are the Top Places to Live Around Boston Right Now
by Madeline Bilis
Walkable downtowns, hip restaurants, and plenty of living space. How 12 suburban towns are wooing the next generation of homebuyer, one millennial at a time.
FOR THE BEACH BUM
Coastal towns making waves for more than just ocean views.
2018 Median Single-Family Price: $415,000 Property Tax Rate: $13.42 Morning Drive Time to Boston: 57 minutes
Sea breezes and (relatively) cheap home prices—what more can you ask for? This former summertime hideaway is now a lively year-round community complete with a bevy of affordable single-families, sparkling condos, and even a revamped waterfront promenade. While the bustle of 1950s Nantasket Beach is no longer, the town’s new Paragon Boardwalk is currently getting an infusion of hipster-tinged nostalgia. Husband-and-wife team Chris and Diana Reale purchased the rundown property in late 2017 and have since upgraded it with an arcade—featuring old-school games, naturally—as well as mini golf and grub from former Clio and Liquid Art House chef Douglas Rodrigues. Plus, commuting into Boston is as easy as hopping on the ferry. Landlubbers need not apply.
2018 Median Single-Family Price: $924,000 Property Tax Rate: $11.03 Morning Drive Time to Boston: 46 minutes
A guaranteed parking spot at Singing Beach is one of the best perks of being a year-round Manchester-by-the-Sea dweller—when you finally manage to snag a place, that is. “If things are priced well in Manchester, they don’t last a minute,” says Julie Smith, an agent with Engel & Völkers by the Sea. “People are waiting to get into this town. It’s crazy.” And for good reason: The coastal life here is easy—and convenient. There’s a commuter-rail stop smack in the middle of a walkable downtown packed with shopping and dining options, plus long lists of community events. On summer nights, for example, beach bums of all ages spread out on blankets to watch movies or hear music in Masconomo Park, which overlooks the ocean.
FOR THE SHOPAHOLIC
You don’t have to live on Beacon Hill to enjoy lovely boutique-lined streets. Walk out your front door and into your favorite stores in suburbia.
2018 Median Single-Family Price: $378,000 Property Tax Rate: $17.50 Morning Drive Time to Boston: 56 minutes
An artisanal ice cream shop, a craft brewery, a gift store stocked with handmade wares, and, yes, a speakeasy, all within walking distance of one another: What city neighborhood could possibly check all of those boxes? Hudson does. Over the past five years, the once-languishing central Massachusetts mill town has been transformed into a lively, dynamic locale—and people are noticing. Younger city dwellers worn down by sky-high prices are putting down roots here, as are suburbanites. “So many times before, we had found ourselves…sipping crafts beers at Medusa Brewing Company,” says teacher Ryann Hart, who moved to Hudson from nearby Marlborough. “And then we truly hit the jackpot when our dream home came on the market.”
2018 Median Single-Family Price: $1,041,000 Property Tax Rate: $14.29 Morning Drive Time to Boston: 45 minutes
Everyone knows Concord is home to one of New England’s quaintest town centers, with indie shops aplenty dotting Main and Walden streets. But it’s only recently that the town upgraded its second pedestrian-friendly shopping area, the West Concord Village District, with boutiques such as the new Joy Street Life + Home and gathering places like Reasons to Be Cheerful, a cute scoop shop. Less than a five-minute walk away is the Wheelhouse, a coworking space in a former furniture mill that draws artists and entrepreneurs. “Our amenities have changed radically,” says broker Zur Attias, of the Attias Group. That explains the 18-percent jump in sales from 2017 to 2018.
FOR THE ROAD WARRIOR
More time in the car means more charming spaces to stretch your legs outside of it. And in these newly hip exurbs, it means a lot more fun, too.
2018 Median Single-Family Price: $431,500 Property Tax Rate: $12.66 Morning Drive Time to Boston: 61 minutes
“I think 50 percent of my buyers are actually coming from Boston,” says Muneeza Nasrullah, owner of Muneeza Realty Group with Keller Williams Realty. So why are urban refugees fleeing to Shrewsbury, just 39 miles west of the city? The establishment of Lakeway Commons, a gigantic mixed-use development at the former site of time-honored retailer Spag’s, for one. “It’s like urban living in the suburbs because you can walk to Whole Foods or Orangetheory Fitness,” Nasrullah says. That, plus Shrewsbury’s charming and walkable town center, complete with a newly renovated library; proximity to Worcester’s sizzling restaurant scene; and combination of millennial-friendly starter homes and higher-end properties for growing families.
2018 Median Single-Family Price: $380,000 Property Tax Rate: $16.46 Morning Drive Time to Boston: 51 minutes
Back in the day, the carriage ride from Plymouth to Boston used to drag on for hours. So by comparison, today’s hourlong journey down Route 3 is quite a breeze. While Plymouth’s Colonial roots make it truly the original place to live, it’s the town’s newer developments that have brought it into the spotlight. The Pinehills, for example, bills itself as a “new take on the classic New England village”: The roughly 3,000-acre planned community consists of single-families and townhouses, with shops and restaurants surrounding its own traditional village green. Of course, Plymouth offers plenty of modern amenities, including a new winery and craft breweries. Those just starting out can scoop up small Cape-style homes in the $200,000 range—we’ll drink to that.
FOR THE FOODIE
City-quality restaurants and easy-to-swallow house prices? Welcome home, young epicures.
2018 Median Single-Family Price: $607,500 Property Tax Rate: $12.61 Morning Drive Time to Boston: 31 minutes
Ravenous after a long day at the office? Nothing beats coming home to a town anchored by “Restaurant Row.” Waltham’s Moody Street offers the best part of Boston without the hassle, featuring top-notch eateries such as Red Bird, Moody’s Delicatessen & Provisions, and dozens of other spots. Nearby, new apartment complexes like the Merc at Moody & Main make it so residents “don’t even have to pull their car out of the driveway” to tuck into charcuterie boards, says Hans Brings, a real estate agent with Coldwell Banker. Don’t want to own a gas guzzler? Not a problem—the town has one commuter-rail stop with another just over the border in Belmont, a convenience that’s likely to draw more millennials than ever to Watch City.
2018 Median Single-Family Price: $425,000 Property Tax Rate: $15.38 Morning Drive Time to Boston: 43 minutes
It’s a delicious time to be a homeowner in Salem, where some of the area’s top restaurateurs are inching north to meet the demands of the hungry historical town. Take chef Matt O’Neil, owner of the award-winning Blue Ox in Lynn. He recently opened Ledger to much acclaim, serving up New England cuisine inside a former bank. Then there’s Tim Haigh and Larry Leibowitz, the homegrown two-person restaurant group behind beloved wood-fired-pizza shop Bambolina and, more recently, noodle bar Kokeshi. In the mood for cocktails with a view? Just saunter over to the Roof at the Hotel Salem. What’s more, locals can dine out often without pinching pennies, considering the town’s housing stock is surprisingly affordable: Eagle-eyed house hunters will notice single-families hitting the market for under $400,000.
FOR THE COMMITMENT-AVERSE
They’re close enough to the city that you can bike in, but cool enough that you may never want to leave.
2018 Median Single-Family Price: $805,000 Property Tax Rate: $12.13 Morning Drive Time to Boston: 24 minutes
Okay, we’ll say it: Arlington is the new Somerville (which, of course, was the new Cambridge). No longer a sleepy suburb, this town gets trendier by the day, attracting artists to its eastern reaches and UppaBaby strollers to the west. A gradual relaxation of Arlington’s Puritanical liquor laws has allowed bars like Common Ground to elbow their way in, while indie maker shop and commissary kitchen the Local Fare hosts innovative food startups that couldn’t possibly afford exorbitant city rents. When it does come time to head into Boston, commuting is as easy as cruising down Arlington’s revamped bike lanes, then hopping on the Minuteman Bikeway all the way to Alewife to catch the T downtown.
2018 Median Single-Family Price: $1,777,500 Property Tax Rate: $9.46 Morning Drive Time to Boston: 23 minutes
While it’s not exactly a secret that Brookline’s tree-lined streets are the place to be, the town is now drawing an even younger, hipper crowd eager to shed some of urban life, but not all of it. Case in point? Allium Market and Café, a newly opened specialty food emporium in Coolidge Corner that serves up a mean avocado toast (we did say millennials, didn’t we?). It’s just around the corner from rows of stately Victorians fetching more than $3 million and $700,000 condos in historical brownstones—not to mention top-notch public schools. “It’s a perfect blend of city and suburban lifestyles,” says Diana Kuang, of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage—and one that’s only a 15-minute T ride from Coolidge Corner into Boston, to boot.
FOR THE SOCIAL BUTTERFLY
Parties, events, clubs—finding your crew is easy when you live here.
2018 Median Single-Family Price: $625,000 Property Tax Rate: $13.05 Morning Drive Time to Boston: 43 minutes
It’s tough not bumping into your neighbors in this sizable MetroWest suburb with a surprisingly close-knit community. Just ask the folks who pack into the Center for the Arts in Natick to catch concerts, open-mike nights, and films both new and old. On any given weekend, residents select the freshest fruits and veggies at the town’s farmers’ market, say “om” in the woods with PeaksandPoses Trail Yoga, and devour a hot dog (or three) at the 129-year-old establishment Casey’s Diner. While century-old restaurants—and houses—are the norm here, there are also plenty of new-construction abodes for sale: Converted churches have even been known to hit the market every once in a while.
2018 Median Single-Family Price: $612,450 Property Tax Rate: $13.26 Morning Drive Time to Boston: 50 minutes
“Every piece of land that can be built on in Newburyport is being built on,” says William Raveis agent Susan Grillo—see: condos being carved out of antique captain’s homes and brand-new houses springing up on small plots. The kicker? They’re all just steps from downtown. In addition to the shops and restaurants bordering the Merrimack, Newburyport is packed with social clubs. Artists and art lovers flock to the Newburyport Art Association, birdwatchers convene at Mass Audubon’s Joppa Flats Education Center, and every spring, a music festival called Plumfest hosts local bands and musicians on porches across Plum Island. “There’s something for everyone, depending on what you’re interested in,” Grillo says.
A new look at The Archer Residences, going up now in Beacon Hill
How do you open a 14-foot, $200,000 window?
Turns out, very easily.
At least, Manuel Davis, senior vice president with Advisors Living and exclusive listing agent for The Archer Residences in Beacon Hill, made it look easy. The windows are major features of some of the 62-unit luxury condominium property, under construction now in Boston’s Beacon Hill.
Davis toured the Business Journal through the property, located immediately behind the Massachusetts State House, on a recent midwinter afternoon.
Prices at the 62-unit property start at $990,000 for an 864-square-foot one-bedroom unit; $2.5 million for a 1,656-square-foot two-bedroom unit with one on-site, valet parking space; $3.6 million for a 2,484-square-foot three-bedroom unit plus a study, with one on-site, valet parking spaces.
Penthouse units begin at $9 million for 2,940 square feet, a private terrace and on-site valet parking spaces.
Davis sees the 50 garage parking spots underneath with 24-hour valet parking as an invaluable asset in the uber-tight Beacon Hill.
When asked about the demand for a high price point residential product — particularly with a potential downturn looming — Davis said unique historic aspects of The Archer make it a “superior product” that stands out against high-rise glass towers. Indeed, Beacon Hill lost just 3 percent of its total residential value in the last downturn, Davis said.
“There’s a safety in that. There will never be another Beacon Hill. You can never recreate this beautiful neighborhood,” he said. “A lot of the people who are purchasing here are really sound, brilliant financial minds.”
The historic Archer and Donahue buildings were previously home to Suffolk University’s law school, prior to Suffolk selling the property in 2015 for $43.5 million.
Center Court Mass LLC developed the Archer Residences, which were designed by The Architectural Team and LDa Architecture & Interiors and built by Consigli Construction Co.
The Archer Residences will open in the first quarter of 2020.
Boston Realtor Manuel Davis learned it was best to delegate the responsibilities of the home inspector, mortgage broker and attorneys, and let them do their job
In this Monday column, Christy Murdock Edgar asks agents across the nation to share the lessons they’ve learned during their time in the industry.
For Boston Realtor Manuel Davis, understanding your strengths — and your clients timeline — helps ensure optimal results.
As senior vice president of residential sales for Boston Realty Advisors, Manuel Davis has built his reputation in the unique and competitive Boston real estate market based on his sterling professionalism and his enviable insight and knowledge. Through his nearly two decades in the business, Davis has learned that understanding your clients’ needs and preferences — and your own — is key to building your business and your network.
How long have you been in the business?
In high school, I got a job as a carpenter’s assistant. Through high school and college, I worked for various developers in Belmont and Somerville, Massachusetts. In 2001, a local and now retired developer recommended that I get a real estate license. He saw potential in me and became a mentor. His vision was for me to combine my artistic aptitude with my people skills in order to sell his product. I got my real estate license and together we achieved mutual success.
After immediate success collaborating with developers, I joined Coldwell Banker in Cambridge and focused on working with buyers and sellers. This concentrated effort yielded over sixty transactions within my first year at Coldwell Banker and gave me the confidence to propel my career forward.
While at Coldwell Banker for five years, I predominantly worked with homebuyers and sellers. Concurrently, I was also advising developers and purchasing my own real estate for condo conversions. It was then that I learned wearing too many hats is a disservice to all. I recognized that my love for working with people outweighed my excitement for developing a real estate portfolio.
I’m at my best when working with discretionary buyers and pairing them with exceptional properties that uniquely work for them. Advising and educating buyers at The Archer in Beacon Hill is a perfect example of what I do today.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
I came to Boston Realty Advisors in 2007 and plan to be here for the long-term. I hope to be doing more of what I’m doing today and working with the same people as we continue to lead and differentiate our brand. My plan is to be part of a team that helps developers create a product that will be appreciated and loved by many, to be hyper-focused on the buying and selling experience and to achieve records and break the norm.
What’s one big lesson you’ve learned in real estate?
I’ve learned to never expect anything in real estate. Everyone handles a real estate transaction differently. Some people take it very personally, while for others it’s just business. Some people pretend that it’s one or the other. I’ve learned to pace myself — with everyone.
How did you learn it?
About five years ago, I received a cold call from a prospective client. He explained that he owned condos in both Boston and Cambridge, stating that he wanted to pick my brain about the current market to potentially sell his properties. We spent nearly an hour on our first call and I stayed in contact throughout the years.
After two years of cordial follow-up calls, I got together with him and his wife for our first face-to-face meeting. They made it clear that they did not want to sell their condos and preferred to keep them tenanted. Based on their decision to rent, I referred them to a qualified rental agent and a terrific contractor to help with rental marketing and the required maintenance prior to each turnover.
Over the years, they continued to flirt with the idea of selling. Each time, I prepared an in-depth marketing analysis, along with a marketing service proposal. I would meet with them for lunch to strategize and ultimately put one condo on the market, only to cancel the listing after a few days since the rental agent found a tenant for the home.
Every time they toyed with the idea of selling, the process began with an emotional attachment to each home. They vacillated between the fond memories each home provided their family and the potential benefits the transactional income would afford them. As a maturing broker, I needed to better understand this dichotomy.
It wasn’t until several years later that my client decided to sell the properties. The time was right for each home. The condos sold fast, for cash and above asking.
Without the patience and understanding, and more importantly, without a quality team of professionals to have delegated the legal, rental and contractor responsibilities, I doubt I would have been able to gain the trust and loyalty this couple gave me throughout the years — and the ultimate approval to list their condos.
My experience has taught me that buying real estate is both an emotional and financial decision. I’ve learned to be a coach for people. My job is not to push in one direction or the other. Rather, my job is to advise by providing options in order for my clients to make an informed decision that best matches their lifestyle.
Over my career, I’ve learned that no two clients are alike and that people are in love with their homes for many different reasons. Some are in it purely for the investment, and others for a myriad of personal reasons. Being able to understand my client’s needs and rationale has been paramount to being a successful broker. I take pride in being an exceptional listener and am privileged to have curated an outstanding referral base that consistently delivers results.
What advice would you give to new agents?
Try not to wear too many hats. Delegate the responsibilities of the home inspector, mortgage broker and attorneys, and let them do their job. In that process, build a core of good referrals. You’re as good as any referral you make.
A behind-the-scenes look at new real estate in one of America’s oldest cities.
By Geoff Nudelman
December 31, 2018
It’s an increasingly familiar scene: hundreds of young professionals mill about a farm-to-table lunch, a hip workout gear shop, or a SoulCycle spin class.
Across America, this is a common snapshot in newer cities where affluent 20- and 30-somethings are starting fresh in more affordable secondary markets.
But this particular scene isn’t happening somewhere new. It’s happening in one of the oldest cities in America: Boston.
While the traditional neighborhoods of Beacon Hill and Back Bay are still alive and well, the growth of Boston’s luxury offerings are front and center in Seaport–a neighborhood that was literally underwater until the late 1800s and is now thriving as an example of the future of American living.
“It’s truly an iconic location,” says Janice Dumont, CEO of Advisors Living, speaking about the site of new building Pier 4–a dramatic, curved, 106-unit enclave tucked behind the Museum of Contemporary Art on Seaport’s northern side.
Pier 4’s modern architecture (designed by renowned firm SHoP), full-service amenities, and integrated waterfront living are drawing buyers from far and wide to the urban environment. (Some are paying as much as $4,200 per square foot for penthouses.)
“[Based on all on of this], Seaport has created a new destination within the city,” Dumont says.
As much as a skyline dotted with cranes and construction is dizzying in Seaport, the center of traditional Boston luxury still resides in the #5 neighborhood of our Top 10 Priciest Neighborhoods in America: Beacon Hill.
“It’s a real village and a tight-knit community,” says Manuel Davis, senior vice president of Advisors Living and the exclusive listing agent at the Archer Residences, Beacon Hill.
The full-service, seven-story building (half of which was the original Suffolk University Law School) underscores the immense work and effort required to restore and modernize a piece of living history–and how attractive that proposition is to luxury buyers.
What started as 75 residences of varying sizes has been condensed to 61 condos due to buyer requests, many averaging above $5 million. (Davis could not give specific sales figures, but noted that they have been “robust.” The building will be completed towards the end of 2019.) The Archer Residences had to work with several historical commissions to carefully restore the combined building, retaining Beacon Hill’s trademark charm and style along the way.
Coupled with extremely limited inventory in single-family homes, Beacon Hill stands to remain an epicenter of Boston luxury for some time to come.
Just across Boston Common, the Four Seasons Boston Hotel and Residences remains another mark of traditional Boston affluence. Built in 1983, the residential side of the building has long been home to some of the city’s wealthiest people with a location overlooking the park and one of the earliest examples of modern, full-service amenity living in the area. Since its opening, residences have rarely traded on the market and haven’t been available for long.
The success of the original property spurred Four Seasons to build a large new residential/hotel hybrid tower just a mile-and-a-half away at One Dalton.
“It’s in a class all its own,” says Michael Carucci, executive vice president at Gibson Sotheby’s, which is the exclusive listing agent for the 61-floor project.
While he can’t reveal sales numbers, he did say that the building is 75 percent sold with “sales at a record pace compared to other Four Seasons projects around the world, and at price premiums above the Boston market that are higher than most price premiums achieved by other comparable projects in their respective markets.”
“Boston is becoming such a global destination [for the ultra-wealthy]. A lot of us were wondering: What took so long?” he says.
Opening in spring 2019, One Dalton will bring 160 condos perched above the new hotel, which marks a decided shift in the local luxury market. Three separate floors are earmarked as dedicated amenity spaces, with several floors at the top of the building reserved for unfinished penthouses. Pricing will range from $2.5 million to over $40 million.
Carucci noted that luxury buyers across the entire spectrum–not just the younger set–are looking for all-in-one, live/work/play lifestyles, drawing them to buildings in places like Back Bay and Seaport that are close to major commercial centers.
“There’s no longer an appetite for commuting,” he says. “It’s very important to people to not to sit in traffic anymore.”
Perhaps therein lies much of this newfound attraction to Boston: it’s a highly walkable city. End-to-end isn’t much more than an hour at a strolling pace, and many of these newer projects are taking advantage of the old “location, location, location” adage.
Boston’s next major neighborhood renewal, Lovejoy Wharf, takes advantage of its waterfront location. While Related Beal has already opened a 15-story, 157-unit building right next to the relocated Converse HQ (and complete with an Instagrammable restaurant facing the water), that’s just the tip of iceberg.
This largely quiet residential area sits next to TD Garden and a major transit hub, and as it stands could be Boston’s next micro-hotspot.
“The evolution has been really interesting,” says the Codman Company (TCC) managing director Sue Hawkes (TCC works with several residential properties throughout Boston). “It’s been a niche area that was formerly cut off by some of Boston’s man-made boundaries.”
Besides shoes and brunch, the Hub on Causeway is bringing a major mixed-use development–complete with Boston’s largest supermarket–to a site across the street from the sports arena. The planned residential and office components are aimed at attracting tech and advertising workers–the ones that can afford luxury properties and the required amenities of 21st century living. (Verizon has already pre-leased a significant chunk of the building’s available office space.)
However, all of this new inventory coming online may present new challenges for a city that has traditionally had a tight luxury housing market.
“The developers are going to have to deliver a really good product,” Carucci says, “because over the next couple of years there will be fierce competition for buyers. There’s no question about that.”
While the ultra-luxury segment of the American housing market is a tiny slice of the overall picture, it does offer some interesting insight into the financial health of some of the country’s real estate market.
“From past experience, ultra-luxury neighborhoods don’t necessarily follow general market trends,” says Skylar Olsen, director of economic research and outreach at Zillow. “These are rare, nuanced sets of homes in the end of the market that recovered much quicker than other parts [following the 2008 recession].”
As another year of reporting far and wide on American real estate comes to a close, we wanted to take a broad and comprehensive look at this growth through examining the 10 most expensive neighborhoods across the country, and exploring why each of these areas are sustaining such high median prices.
To do this, we compiled median price data from four real estate companies that represent different areas of the industry: The Agency, Redfin, Douglas Elliman, and Zillow. Then, we compared price points in the top 15 highest-ranking markets across each list.
This final lineup represents a truer cross section of the most expensive neighborhoods spread out across more markets than the raw data alone. Neighborhoods in the same city/area were averaged out based on median.
10. Di Lido Island (Miami Beach, Fla.) – $4,600,000
We’ve reported at length on South Florida’s housing explosion in up-and-coming neighborhoods, and this is the first of two traditional Miami strongholds that makes our list.
Di Lido Island is the largest of the Venetian Islands—a small chain that sits in Biscayne Bay between Miami Beach and the south side of the Edgewater neighborhood. The longtime celebrity haven is also home to captains of industry and international businesspeople living in both primary and secondary residences.
As you’d expect, they’re also coming for the water.
“Waterfront homes are really now selling for the land value,” says Sladja Stantic, estate agent at ONE Sotheby’s International Realty. Many of Di Lido’s estates were built in the 1920s, which renders them outdated. Developers and individuals are buying up these homes, tearing them down, and putting up mansions like 825 E Dilido Dr., which offers 8,000 square feet of beachside living on the northeast corner of the island. The six-bed, six-and-a-half-bath home (no longer on the market as of press time) is a prime example of the modern architecture trend across the national luxury market and maximizes the available land on the 14,000-plus-square-foot lot.
Developers have to make the most of the available dirt because strict City of Miami regulations mandate that new construction homes can only cover up to 50 percent of the available lot size and be limited to two levels (60 percent for existing structures, though there are certain historic exceptions; our listed example above was built before these new rules came into effect).
It’s an additional hurdle in a small community with top clientele and only 170 residences total on the island.
9. Lacy Estates (San Marino, Calif.) – $4,700,000
For the better part of the last decade, Asian (predominantly Chinese) investment has driven the growth of the San Gabriel Valley in the eastern third of Los Angeles County. In San Marino, median home prices have risen more than $700,000 in the last decade, and that’s even more evident in this particular neighborhood sandwiched between South Pasadena and the busier commercial centers of Alhambra and Rosemead.
“In San Marino, every other house is owned by a Chinese buyer,” says Gus Ruelas, managing partner of the Agency’s Pasadena office. “While they’ve driven values to record highs, I think the majority of houses are being used to park money.”
As is the case in many internationally driven American cities, real estate is seen as a relatively safe investment for foreign wealth. In Lacy Estates, the result has been a swath of homes that were sparsely used or remained empty after the purchase, losing the sense of community that this residential area used to have.
Ruelas has also noticed that prices are starting to plateau. The community issue coupled with growing difficulty for the Chinese buyers to get their money out of China is adding to the amount of time properties are spending on the market.
“In the $5 million to $8 million range, homes that would sell in days [as recently as] two years ago are now on the market for a couple of months,” he says. “Anything above $10 million is taking longer to sell too.”
However, this slowed momentum is presenting new opportunity for domestic buyers, especially those on the other side of Los Angeles. Ruelas has already started to notice the shift with a number of entertainment industry professionals (and celebrities like Meryl Streep) moving east.
8. Palm Island (Miami Beach, Fla.) – $4,800,000
Earlier this year, there was a decent amount of fanfare over the listing of Al Capone’s mansion (now renamed 93 Palm) on the 82-acre Palm Island. While the restored mansion hasn’t yet sold (and has since had a price adjustment), Palm Island is nearing completion of a large face-lift that’s attracting new curiosity and capital to the area beyond the famous property.
“They’ve been pouring a ton of money into raising the streets and returning the island to its original luster,” says Compass Miami/South Florida real estate advisor Tristan Alexander. “There’s much less wondering about what’s going to happen.”
Whereas Di Lido is a flashier, more celebrity-driven community, Palm’s gated access, pristine park, and quieter lifestyle attracts a mix of families, jet-setters, and seasonal owners.
Looking toward 2019, Alexander sees a return of that traditional domestic money that’s driven sales on both Palm and Di Lido Islands.
He notes that political and currency issues have and will continue to slow Latin American and Turkish buyers that have typically fueled Miami’s market. That money may be replaced by a huge push of U.S. buyers from the Northeast and West Coast, along with those seeking opportunity.
“There’s a lot of inventory (on Palm Island) and right now, you can take your pick of the litter,” he says.
7. Aspen, Colo. – $4,869,200
“Aspen is really a ski resort last and a lifestyle first,” says Michelle Sullivan, broker associate at Christie’s International Real Estate Aspen.
This lifestyle of posh dining and entertainment, arts and culture, and, of course, the outdoors has been drawing people to this enclave in the Rocky Mountains for decades.
As expected, secondary and vacation residences, driven by buyers who may have spent years visiting the area before ever considering it a home base, dominate the Aspen market.
Much like other mountainous vacation destinations, there are strict land-use regulations that protect much of the natural beauty surrounding Aspen. Though they safeguard what the hundreds of thousands of annual visitors come to see, they also put a strain on inventory, keeping prices high.
Krista Klees, founding principal at Palladium Properties, an affiliate of Luxury Portfolio International in Aspen, notes that this, among other factors, contributes to a very active market in the $3 million to $5 million range, especially in more central areas of town.
“Downtown and the center have more ‘lock and leave’ options with less annual expenses. These are homes people are spending less than 30 days a year in,” she says.
Both Klees and Sullivan note that activity has slowed above that range, as there’s a considerable jump for someone looking to upgrade their Aspen residence. With little inventory in the $5 million to $7 million range, buyers are forced to spend as much as $4 million more to get into something newer and nicer.
This has also contributed to slowed activity at the ultra-luxury end of the spectrum. Homes above $12 million are sitting longer than they used to as competition heats up for the limited vacation buyer in that range.
“People are potentially just making a shift in general,” Klees says. “At that price point, they’re very significant homes [and that’s tough] in a secondary market.”
However, back at the more active end of the luxury market, Aspen’s growth as a polo destination is driving new interest from South American buyers, while the general summer season (with events like the Aspen Ideas Festival) is drawing culture seekers from places like New York, Florida, Texas, and Canada.
6. Malibu Beach and Point Dume, Calif. – $4,984,404
Malibu has long been home to some of the most expensive—and desirable—homes in the Los Angeles area. As the devastation from the Woolsey Fire unfolds, the consensus from agents is that there will be a pause in the general Malibu market as the community comes together to help each other rebuild and recover.
“The rental market is going to be very strong as we work to get people back into homes,” says Sandro Dazzan, managing partner of the Agency’s Malibu office and one of two agents that were able to return our request for insight. He says that he’s already fielding several calls a day from clients looking for rentals. This should benefit homes that had spent any extended time on the market prior to the fire as sellers may transition them to leasing options, at least in the short term.
With Point Dume suffering among the heaviest losses from the fire, Dazzan estimates that it will take about six months for the market to return to somewhat normal activity.
Rochelle Maize, the executive director of luxury estates at Nourmand & Associates, represented the seller in a Ramirez Canyon sale (near Point Dume) days before the fire began. While the home escaped unscathed, she predicts that this event is going to change how people build and shape their properties. “People are going to be more mindful, especially with landscaping,” she says.
It’s a sentiment that Dazzan echoes, adding that people are going to be much more aware of brush clearance, metal roofs, and other preventative measures.
Both agents agree that this isn’t going to change Malibu’s desirability. Point Dume and Malibu Beach in particular will continue to attract the traditional A-list celebrities and wealthy businesspeople that the area is known for.
“Malibu is still Malibu,” Maize says. “People will come back.”
5. Beacon Hill (Boston, Mass.) – $5,136,700
An older demographic is fueling the fire in Boston’s most desirable neighborhood.
“Many are local—they’re recent empty nesters or [people] leaving big homes in the suburbs to come into the city,” says Beth Dickerson, agent at Gibson Sotheby’s International Realty.
This established wealth is key in driving the exceptional growth of a neighborhood where average prices can run as high as $2,800 per square foot. Dickerson says that all of the new construction that flowed into this historic, picturesque area just north of Boston Common set new standards for what buyers could and would afford.
“In the last several years, we’ve seen numbers north of $1,000 per square foot and it seemed to jump to $1,500 in a year,” she says. “[Suddenly] $1,500 was a good deal as prices moved up well over $2,000.”
As a testament to the high interest in Beacon Hill, Dickerson oversaw the sale of a 4,025-square-foot, three-bedroom penthouse at Maison Vernon for $15.2 million earlier this year. There were three offers in the first week, all above the original asking price of $10.5 million.
Additionally, new construction like the Archer Residences Beacon Hill is establishing a new normal in high-end, amenity-driven living for that same older demographic. The Archer will provide 20,000 square feet of amenity space in a 75-unit building. Pricing starts at $1 million for select one-bedroom units and goes to $18 million for a duplex penthouse.
“There’s a demand for this white-glove, boutique level of service that Boston hasn’t seen before,” says Manuel Davis, senior vice president of Advisors Living, the exclusive listing agents for the Archer.
That evident demand, which also includes buildings like the St. Regis Residences in the Seaport neighborhood (that broke ground last month) and modern remodels currently on the market, makes it clear that Boston’s luxury market isn’t slowing down anytime soon.
4. Sea Cliff, Presidio Heights, and Pacific Heights (San Francisco, Calif.) – $5,167,500
San Francisco’s blistering real estate market earned three spots on our list, all in very close proximity to each other, so we combined the median average into one spot. They’re a trio of historically affluent neighborhoods on the north side of San Francisco proper.
“There’s this notion that once people move to Sea Cliff, they spend the rest of their lives there,” says Compass San Francisco agent Missy Wyant Smit.
She says that this drives extremely limited inventory and has helped spur the continued demand in Pacific Heights and Presidio Heights. A combination of tech executives, entrepreneurs (which she stresses are not just limited to tech), and industrious couples are the leading buyers in our median area.
However, continued volatility and price increases across the city as a whole are pulling a bit of unease into the general market, especially in these high-demand neighborhoods. Compass’s November 2018 SF Real Estate Report notes that while luxury home sales hit an all-time high in San Francisco, “listing inventory has climbed … and the number of price reductions and expired listings have increased.”
Smit agrees that the market temperature is cooling and notes that the numbers in Compass’s latest report don’t reflect fall sales, which are gradually following that cooling trend. However, prices may rebound after the new year.
“When the market starts to shift like this, it’s a challenge to get buyers to make a move,” she says. “Only time will tell, but what I’ve said to my buyers is that we may look back at the fall 2018 market and say that it was a season of good deals for buyers compared to next spring’s market.”
Regardless of any broader slowdown, Sea Cliff, Presidio Heights, and Pacific Heights will continue to be hot. According to the Compass report, houses selling for $3 million and above (like the on-market 3112 Washington St. in Pacific Heights) hit a new all-time high in October with the Heights-Marina area as one of two neighborhoods (determined by their qualifiers) leading the way.
These areas will continue to lure buyers looking for quieter, more residential experiences with a bit of respite from the grind and hustle of San Francisco’s core.
3. Shady Canyon (Orange County, Calif.) – $5,700,000
This gated community in Orange County is nestled into the rolling hills between Irvine and Laguna Beach with 400 home sites built on lots that average a half to three-quarter acres. Although it’s less than 20 years old, it quickly attracted a large contingent of predominantly Chinese buyers that drove up prices.
Those prices peaked in 2016/2017, and now the investment has started to slow, according to Andrew McDonald, director of luxury properties and managing partner of the Agency’s Orange County office.
“Local money is filtering back in,” he says. “It’s a discerning, classy choice for serious wealth.”
That wealth includes athletes like Mark McGwire and Albert Pujols, leaders of industry, and others that are looking for privacy while being minutes away from main hubs inland and on the coast.
The highly rated Shady Canyon Golf Club is also a significant draw, as it sprawls for 300 acres and intertwines with a variety of hiking, biking, and other outdoor activities across the community’s 1,100 acres. “[Because of the natural surroundings], you kind of lose track where you’re at,” McDonald says.
That slice of serenity and exclusivity is a key feature that buyers don’t get in busy Newport Beach or Laguna Beach. Coupled with the aforementioned golfing and discretion that comes with a quiet, gated community, the sum is an attractive locale that leaves buyers willing to pay a premium.
However, as attractive as all of the amenities are, the local market is beginning to soften. McDonald says properties are now sitting on the market six to 12 months and offering exceptional value for prospective buyers.
While local investment rebuilds the value vacated by the international money, Shady Canyon will continue to shift into this transition phase.
2. Silicon Valley, Calif. – $5,706,250
The only region to present more neighborhoods on our list than San Francisco was its immediate partner to the south. Four neighborhoods made our top ten list with several more in the top 20. The areas of Atherton, Old Palo Alto, Professorville, and Crescent Park make up our median areas for an incredible concentration of high home prices.
“The money in the last 10 years has become more extreme,” says Eric Boyenga, founding partner of Compass Silicon Valley.
These areas in particular are drawing that money because of how close they are to downtown commercial areas and the core of venture capital firms on Sand Hill in Menlo Park.
As one would expect, Silicon Valley is driven by the success of the tech and stock markets, which means the amount it actually costs to build a home in these highly desirable neighborhoods rapidly fluctuates. Boyenga says that California’s Prop 13—which dictates property taxes through varying assessments—is also making property owners think twice before putting a home on the market, adding a further strain on inventory.
“There’s no other place in the U.S. that costs as much to build as it does here,” he says. “We have a lack of good builders—and many of these buyers want their house built like a microchip—so the builders can command a premium. In places like Palo Alto, Atherton [and the adjacent Woodside], you could have 10 to 14 people involved in a project just getting everything approved to build.”
Truthfully, with all of the socioeconomic factors taken into consideration, these four neighborhoods will continue to command a special premium that’s causing sticker shock even to those with unlimited means.
“[Even] billionaires come here and they’re astounded by the prices,” Boyenga says.
1. Port Royal (Naples, Fla.) – $8,200,000
A quick Google search of Port Royal Naples is all you need to see to understand that the most expensive neighborhood in the country is driven by its high-end real estate listings. Almost the entire first two pages of results are either links to listings, vacation rentals, or stories about high-priced properties.
“It’s a very unique piece of property with a majority of homes on the water with wide canals,” says Joe Belz, a real estate advisor at Compass Naples. (Roughly 85 to 90 percent of Port Royal lots have deep-water access to the Gulf of Mexico.)
The coastal neighborhood has long been a destination for celebrities, C-level executives, and just about anyone from any industry with considerable wealth. The median price we determined is really an entry point for a family trying to get into Port Royal. For a four-bedroom, four-bath waterfront home, you’re easily looking at an asking price north of $8.5 million.
With that price comes a membership to the Port Royal Club, which Belz says is a very popular draw for those buying in the neighborhood. Prospective owners tend to come from the Midwest, but buyers from the Northeast states are starting to show more interest, especially those from Boston.
As of November 14, there were 52 homes for sale in Port Royal, showing about a 16.5-month supply, which Belz says isn’t much of an inventory given the price points. He adds that the waterfront draw even attracts those who aren’t necessarily big-time boaters, but want exceptional views and a more opulent lifestyle.
With new, record-breaking transactions like the $48.8-million sale in June of 2500 Gordon Drive, it’s fair to say that interest in the ultra-luxury side of the market (which makes up a vast majority of Port Royal) is self-sustaining. Given the low inventory and developers’ continued interest in tearing down old multimillion-dollar mansions and combining multiple lots to create larger estates, Port Royal could easily remain at the top of this list for some time.
A recent Institute for Policy Studies report offers a decidedly negative view of both the city’s luxury residential market and the homebuyers who support it. The study’s argument that the luxury buildings are populated by faceless corporate entities and international buyers seeking to park their money ignores a larger and exceptionally positive outcome for the city. (Full disclosure: As the principal of a full-service residential and commercial real estate brokerage firm in the Boston market, I represent many real estate owners and developers.)
First, the burgeoning community of luxury condos in Boston is, in economic terms, a net positive for the city — providing significant tax dollars and job opportunities. Contrary to the study’s one-sided viewpoint, luxury development in Boston provides new residential opportunities for those who are looking to move into the city.
In addition, the report seems to view ownership by international buyers as an inherently nefarious undertaking, calling one tower a “classic wealth storage” property. The study’s authors seem to have a decidedly dim view of international real estate transactions — perhaps based on data from other markets such as New York City and Miami, which have experienced an influx of problematic transactions and slow city reaction.
Boston is on the world stage for many respectable reasons — education, medical, life science, technology, and finance. As such, the Boston real estate market has and always will attract local investors, as well as equity from throughout the United States and around the globe.
I’ve worked with many types of investors and home buyers throughout my more than 20 years of working in Boston real estate. My experience is that the majority of the international buyers in Boston are connected to Boston in a variety of positive ways. They buy a home here because their child is attending a Boston university, or they want to be near our world-class medical care, or they are relocating to here for a well-paying job in the tech, medical, life science, or financial services fields.
One of the study’s primary negative data points is that 64 percent of luxury condo owners in the sample do not claim their residential exemption, which the study calls “a clear indication that the condo owners are not using their units as their primary residence.” However, this point is superfluous. The requirements to obtain the exemption are time consuming and unwieldy for an annual exemption that amounts to only a few hundred dollars for most homeowners. As such, many people who purchase luxury units will not spend the time on something with such a small benefit.
Instead of depending on subsidies and rent control like other cities, Boston’s affordable housing policies create a virtuous cycle wherein the more projects that are approved, the more affordable units are delivered — thereby creating a robust workforce with the buying power to fill them. Moreover, every new residential development increases Boston’s property tax base – which helps the city become socioeconomically appealing to all – thereby attracting more and more residents.
While decrying projects like Millennium Tower in Downtown Crossing, the study ignores the fact that annual real estate taxes generated from Millennium Tower singlehandedly exceeds $12.6 million — equal to paying the annual salaries for 303 teachers or 168 police or 136 firefighters. Yet the number of police and fire calls to this building was four and the number of children using public schools is de minimis.
Thrilled to read about the stunning, luxury homes The Archer Residences Beacon Hill in Boston Common Magazine’s October issue. Turn to page 70 for Marni Katz’s article “Great adaptations” to learn about The Archer’s beautiful interiors, finishes, and amenities, and message me if you are interested in touring the one-of-a-kind sales center in Beacon Hill.
BOSTON, MA (August 8, 2018) – Boston Realty Advisors (BRA), the number one independently owned real estate advisory and brokerage firm in Massachusetts, announced today its expansion into Nantucket, MA. BRA has named its newest division – Nantucket Realty Advisors – a full service brokerage, assisting home buyers and sellers, along with assisting clients with vacation rentals.
The state-of-the-art office is located at 15 North Beach and will be managed by sixth generation Nantucketer, Angel Conrad Frazier. Ms. Frazier has more than twenty years of experience working with buyers and sellers on the island. She said, “I have a native responsibility to preserve the DNA of Nantucket.” Mrs. Frazier continued, “The Island and its residents have perpetually maintained a sophisticated mix of class, respect and discretion – a rare combination that my new partners at Nantucket Realty Advisors genuinely exude.” Angel will be joined by some of the most seasoned professionals from Boston Realty Advisors, including Jason Weissman, William Catlin, Tana Weissman and Janice Dumont.
To comprehend BRA’s expansion into Nantucket, it helps to appreciate who Boston Realty Advisors is off the island. BRA is an established real estate thought leader throughout New England. A few notable and relevant highlights include marketing Pier 4 Luxury Condominiums in Boston’s Seaport, a world class development by Tishman Speyer and the management of office and retail leasing at Faneuil Hall Marketplace for Ashkenazy Acquisition Corporation. BRA additionally collaborates with elite clients such as Jamestown, AIG and The Davis Companies. Furthermore, BRA’s investment sales division has completed over $1B in middle market transactions in the last five years.
The resolve to open an office in one of the world’s most recognized islands was supported by data and comprehensive research on Nantucket and the strength of the second home market. A downloadable snapshot of the analyzed data-set is available to the right this release.
Jason Weissman, CEO of Boston Realty Advisors said, “Nantucket is a logical expansion for our white glove residential brokerage platform.” He continued, “Our presence on Nantucket will create numerous synergies with our diverse client base; on and off the island.”
Nantucket Realty Advisors is co-hosting its grand opening party alongside N Magazine on Friday, August 10th – 6:00pm-8;00pm – at 21 Broad Hotel in Nantucket. Join Jason Weissman, CEO of Boston Realty Advisors, Bruce Percelay, Chairman and Publisher of N Magazine and the Nantucket Chamber of Commerce for cocktails and hors d’oeuvres to celebrate the essence of Nantucket and world-class service.
The Nantucket Realty Advisors inaugural celebration will help launch the busiest weekend on the island. The annual Boston Pops on Nantucket attracts over 46,500 visitors.
Manuel Davis, senior vice president with Advisors Living, is the property’s exclusive listing agent.
“The Archer Residences offers a unique blend of elegantly designed and spacious layouts, beautifully complemented by some of the finest finishes that I have encountered in today’s real estate market,” Davis said in a statement. “Given its Beacon Hill address, sense of community with 67 full-service homes, and modern amenities, including onsite underground valet garage spaces, discerning clients are acknowledging how rare and unique this opportunity is.”
The 67 units range in size from 1,200 square feet to 3,000 square feet, while the penthouse will span 6,000 square feet. Amenities include a kitchen-equipped roof deck, children’s playroom, pet spa and bicycle storage. The four-bedroom, four-bathroom penthouse, meanwhile, includes a 2,350-square-foot terrace, gas fireplace, infinity-edge jacuzzi, grilling stations and a fire pit.
On-site underground valet parking and 24-hour concierge service will be offered at the Archer Residences, a 67-unit condo building at 45 Temple St. in Beacon Hill slated for completion in late 2019.
Other building amenities include a fitness and wellness center; a club room with a private dining space; a playroom; a pet spa; a boardroom; and a 4,800-square-foot roof deck with views of downtown Boston. The roof deck features seating, a kitchen, and sustainable plantings.
The Archer Residences will offer one- to four-bedroom units priced from $1,500 to $2,500 per square foot, depending on the home, Manuel Davis, senior vice president of residential sales at Advisors Living, the property’s listing agent, wrote in an e-mail. The homes will range from about 1,100 to 3,500 square feet and will feature details like high ceilings of 10 to 15 feet and windows that are 7 to 11 feet in height. There are two styles of kitchens, and some will have walnut finishes, marble counters, and copper hardware.
The homes will be backlit with LED lights and include recessed lighting throughout, according to Davis. The homes will also come with CinemaFrame, which is a concealed home entertainment system, and surround sound.
The most exclusive suite in the building will be the Archer Penthouse. The 6,000-square foot, two-story unit will have four bedrooms, four full baths, two half baths, and a 2,350-square-foot terrace with a gas fireplace, an infinity-edge hot tub, grilling stations, and a fire pit.
The building’s lobby will be decorated with artwork curated by Boston Art and have a fireplace and a concierge desk with a bronze waterfall countertop. Materials used in the building’s common spaces and residences will also include polished copper, imported marble, white oak hardwood, custom limestone mosaic flooring, and curated lighting fixtures, paneling, and wall coverings.
“All the materials are sleek and timeless yet steeped in craft and tradition. They are truly a step above what you may encounter at other luxury properties,” John Day of LDa Architecture and Interiors, one of the companies involved in the development and design of the building, said in a statement.