The Seaport no longer seems to be sizzling, some real estate agents say, but a look at the sales figures from the last six months of 2020 don’t reflect that trend — yet.
“Once upon a time, amenities were very attractive; now there is hesitation about being in shared communities,” Antonio Khoury, an agent and managing partner with Compass, said. But many buildings have gotten creative, offering opportunities like private pool access and spa appointments, he said.
“Historic properties are trending stronger than full-service buildings since those buildings tend to have fewer units,” Compass agent and managing director Brett DeRocker said. This creates an opportunity for buyers looking for a full-service building, he said. “You can open quite a few doors in all the downtown neighborhoods with $3 million; you can get more bang for your buck.”
It’s difficult to judge how COVID-19 and the shutdowns have affected sales. Comparing the number of closed deals between July and December in 2019 and 2020, research by The Warren Group, a real estate analytics firm and publisher of Banker & Tradesman, found a 7 percent uptick in $1 million-plus sales in ZIP codes comprising Beacon Hill and the West End, but Back Bay saw a 15 percent decrease. Sales in the Seaport were up 117 percent.
“I don’t think the data helps figure out what is going on,” Tim Warren, CEO of The Warren Group, said. “A new condo development opens and a raft of deeds come in the first month. Throws things out of whack. … A realtor friend of mine has told me he feels a decline in buyer interest in Boston condos.”
(Next week: What $3 million-plus buys you beyond the city)
Nationally, Redfin has reported that US luxury home sales — with a median sale price of $899,000 — shot up 60.7 percent year over year in September, October, and November 2020, outpacing the increase of mid-priced and affordable homes. Zillow reported that searches for homes listed for more than $1 million are up relative to last year.
Along with outdoor space, which is the number one must-have, buyers want room for home gyms and offices, which are making 2-plus-bedroom properties hotter than ever. “The ‘plus’ is huge,” Beth Dickerson, an agent with Gibson Sotheby’s International Realty, said. “Wives don’t want to look at their husbands’ messy desks anymore.”
While young families are fleeing to the burbs, empty nesters are forging ahead in the city. “They’re splitting their time between pieds-à-terre in town and a place in Florida, New Hampshire, or the Cape,” Dickerson said.
Dickerson sold a two-bedroom in Beacon Hill for $2.3 million to a Palm Beach couple who wanted to feel safe visiting their grandchildren. She also showed a similar property to stir-crazy empty nesters who had been sheltering in Osterville since March. “They want to be able to walk around and see other people,” she said.
Although downtown prices are softer and properties take longer to sell, inventory is still tight and interest rates remain at historic lows. All in all, the downtown market is healthy. “Boston property owners tend to be quite stable, so you do not see as much of a pullback in values as in other urban markets of the US,” DeRocker said.
Last month, Zillow predicted that the demand for urban living will surge in 2021.
“Empty nesters that were planning a move to the city are accelerating the process because it’s a great time to buy,” Khoury said. “They understand that the pandemic will pass.”
Here’s what $3 million-plus buys you in a city right now:
Year built 2017
Square footage 4,360
Baths 3 full, 1 half
Taxes $39,054 (2019)
Fee $1,802 a month
Last sold for $2,075,000 in 2017
This expansive penthouse is an entertainer’s dream; a family could flourish here, too. At the heart of the unit is an open kitchen with double islands, a sunny dining alcove, and a great room that opens onto a terrace with views of the Piscataqua River. The primary bedroom and bath also access it. On the other end of the unit, two bedrooms with en-suite baths, a den, and a conservatory offer places to retreat. The unit even has a fitness room and a temperature-controlled glass wine display. Finally, a private roof deck, two underground parking spaces, and a shared rooftop plunge pool render it irresistible.
>Barbara Dunkle Bean Group Portsmouth, 1150 Sagamore Ave, Portsmouth, N.H., 603-498-7927; beangroup.com
Year built 1900/renovated circa 2005
Square footage 1,772
Baths 2 full
Taxes $29,448 (2020) without the residential exemption
Fee $642 a month
Last sold for $1,800,000 in 2005
This two-bedroom penthouse just a block and a half from the Public Garden is perfect for empty nesters drawn to classic elegance. Just beyond the entry hall, the dining area is nestled under a skylight (one of four in the unit). The adjoining living room has a fireplace and a window seat that overlooks Commonwealth Avenue Mall. Glass doors lead to a European-style kitchen with a cozy banquette and glass-front cabinetry. On the other side of the unit, the primary bedroom suite is outfitted with a built-in desk, fireplace, and a walk-in closet. A direct-access parking space, a studio, and a private roof deck with a shower complete the offerings.
Year built 2016
Square footage 3,045
Baths 3 full, 2 half
Taxes $17,352 (2019)
Fee $1,200 a month
Last sold for $2 million in 2016
Urban living meets the beach in this South Boston triplex that’s just a three-minute walk to Pleasure Bay Beach. The 3,045-square foot unit is a family-friendly haven, with four bedrooms plus an office, as well as a mudroom, two garage parking spaces, and a private roof deck. A candy apple-red island anchors the custom kitchen on one end of the open-concept, double-height living space, which is drenched in natural light and boasts unobstructed views of the bay. Reclaimed-wood accents, barn doors, and a gas fireplace make it a cozy spot to gather. There’s also a family room with a wet bar and wine fridge on the top floor.
>Kevin Caulfield, Compass, 126 Newbury St., Boston, 617-501-3685; compass.com
Year built 1890
Square footage 2,153
Baths 3 full
Taxes $19,586 (2020)
Last sold for $1,380,000 in 2011
Raise a family or host your offspring and grandkids in this single-family four-bedroom home. The front parlor features tall windows, the original marble mantel with a gas fireplace, and a cascading staircase, while the newly renovated kitchen is contemporary and sleek. The primary bedroom suite has period moldings, bow-front windows, two original marble mantels, and floor-to-ceiling built-in cabinets. In addition to three more bedrooms, there’s a dining room and a family room with exposed-brick walls, a full basement that could accommodate a home gym, and a roof deck with an automatic hydraulic skylight, gas, electric, a water filtration system, and stunning city views.
>Melinda Davala Sarkis, Coldwell Banker Realty, 519 Tremont St., Boston, 617-587-4600; coldwellbankerhomes.com
Marni Elyse Katz blogs about design at StyleCarrot.com. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter @globehomes. Subscribe to our free real estate newsletter — our weekly digest on buying, selling, and design — at pages.email.bostonglobe.com/AddressSignUp.