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Why Back Bay Condos Sell For What They Sell For

Here is the latest installment of Bates By the Numbers, a weekly feature by broker David Bates that drills down into the Hub's housing market to uncover those trends you would not otherwise see. This week, David tries to predict the cheapest and priciest Back Bay condos of 2012 by square foot. (Last week, he laid down a history lesson about supply and demand in Greater Boston.)

The listing information described 708 as "beautifully renovated," 346 square feet bigger, and having more bedrooms and more bathrooms than 709. So why would buyers, buying in the same building on the same floor, pay almost the same price for only 1,000 square feet ($896,500) as other buyers paid for 1,346 square feet ($900,000)? What was it about 709 that justified a 33 percent premium in dollars per square foot? One of the agents in the deal explained that 709 faced the front, while 708 faced the rear; and 709 had a nice layout whereas 708 had a "funky" layout. Seven hundred and nine also had a much more expensive renovation, where even "the fridge cost a FORTUNE."

It was these two sales in The Vendome (160 Comm. Ave. in Back Bay) that provoked me to think about which amenities could influence Back Bay buyers to pay a higher or lower price per square foot. I surveyed several hundred recent condominium sales in the neighborhood, establishing a baseline median price per square foot paid of $763. Then, I compared this median to the median price per square foot buyers actually paid for Back Bay units that were high or low, new or old, expensive or cheap, front or rear, and near or far.

Feature Median $ Per Square Foot (+/-)

Penthouse Units $813
First-Floor Units $647

Units with Private Decks $775
Units with Patios $630

Sale Price $200K-$499K $675
Sale Price $1M+ $941

0-100 Comm. Ave. or Marlborough St. $865
370+ Comm. Ave. or Marlborough St. $699

Front $780
Corner $742
Back $736

Built 1985 or after $913
Built Before 1985 $739

Taking into account the amenities that resulted in strongest deviation in median price per square foot, I theorized it might be possible to predict the profile of the condos in Back Bay that had garnered the highest and lowest dollars paid per square foot in 2012. Simply put, these units would probably have multiple amenities that provoked the strongest deviations in one direction.

According my theory, the unit with the lowest dollars paid per square foot should be on the first floor ($647) or below, with a patio ($630) beyond Mass. Ave. ($699), and have sold for under $500K ($675). It turns out, the lowest price per square foot paid for any Back Bay condo I found was 4 Charlesgate, #3, a garden-level unit with patio, which sold for $624K, just $399 a square foot. As my 6-year-old says, "So close!"

For the highest dollars paid per square foot, I predicted a penthouse ($813), which sold in excess of $1 million ($941) near Arlington Street ($865), in a building built in 1985 or after ($913). Well, the highest price paid per square foot in Back Bay was $2,204 for Penthouse B in 100 Beacon, which traded for $9 million and was built in the 1920s, but completely renovated in 2009. As my 7-year-old says, "Nailed it!" LOL.
· Our Bates By the Numbers archive [Curbed Boston]