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.”
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.
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.
The average listing price in Jamaica Plain in 2018 is $613,000, up 8% since last year. With just 35 listings on the market, and 42 under agreement in March (with the average days-to-offer at 10 days) Jamaica Plain has transitioned into a hotbed for families and young-professionals.
The average sale price in 2018 is over $633,000, but with the large spectrum of pricing, deals still exist.
In April, newly renovated 171 South Street Unit 2A sold for $293,000 – a steal for a studio with transit access. Within one week, the property had a cash buyer.
On the contrary, recently constructed 16 Rockview Street – Unit 16, sold for $1,450,000 in January. This was the most expensive transaction this year.
Today, the average price per square foot is $526, up 7% since 2017. Due to market constraints, average listing prices in June have soared$673,611, indicating the lack of available condos.
“This year, the average list price for a condominium in Charlestown is $750,010, with the average sale price reaching $765,383. In the past 6 years, sale prices have surpassed the average list prices by 2%, indicating the high demand for condos in this historic sub-market.
Since 2012, the average condominium sale price has increased by 62%, with the average number of sold condos priced over $1m increasing 13% y-o-y.
The average sold price per square-foot in 2018 has reached $742, with the average days to offer at just 23. Charlestown has pivoted into an attractable destination for several reasons:
Convenient access to Downtown Boston, Logan Airport and 93 North
More spacious unit layouts compared to those in similar sub-markets
Ease of parking and family friendly atmosphere
Today, the 18% closing difference between one and two-bedrooms suggest the rising demand for one-bedrooms, and ultimately how young-professionals are absorbing the existing supply. Given the larger unit sizes for two and three-bedrooms, Charlestown is a desirable location for transitioning families as well, by evidence of 3-bedrooms costing 18% less PSF than 1-bedrooms.”