A Boston house hunting trip like no other
Originally Posted on The Boston Globe by Shirley Leung
Like any good real estate tale, this one begins in the back seat of the agent’s luxury car.
Splayed on the black Range Rover’s leather seats are glossy sheets of sun‐splashed living rooms, inviting kitchens, gleaming bathrooms, and the promise of a place to fill with memories.
But that’s where this story of house hunting takes a turn. Enter Javid, a 24‐year‐old Boston University graduate from Dubai. He’s on a mission, armed with a budget of about $1.5 million, to find an investment property for his father, a surgeon in Dubai who has a penchant for collecting real estate. It has been the thing to do for so many overseas parents who send their kids to college in Boston.
Javid allowed me to tag along Monday, to see how the other half — well, more like the other half‐ percent — lives, provided I use only his first name to protect his privacy. So come quickly now.
The first stop is at the Residences at W Boston, where a doorman welcomes us into a world of hipness. There are the prerequisite black leather armchairs in the lobby, the imposing vase of orchids, the good‐ mood music (not the bad Muzak kind), and air perfumed with a scented Sicilian fig candle.
Andrew Haddad, Javid’s agent, lets us into 25C, a two‐bedroom, two‐bath that fills up 1,286 square feet with an asking price of $1.65 million. Parking is included; yes, valet, if you must know.
The W, with its 123 condos, is over 90 percent sold. Foreign buyers, whether to own for themselves or rent out to others, account for about a quarter of the owners. It’s a reversal of fortune for the Theater District luxury building, whose developer, hammered by the Great Recession and unable to offload units, filed for bankruptcy reorganization in 2010.
Like all the condos we will see this day, the kitchen boasts sleek cabinetry, a granite counter, and high‐ end appliances, be it Bosch, Sub‐Zero, or Wolf; the bathrooms feature oversize showers, and full‐service amenities abound, from a concierge to dog‐walking.
What separates the W is its unobstructed views. The condos, built above the hotel, start at the 16th floor. From the living room to the master bedroom of this 25th‐floor unit, a postcard view of Boston unfolds: the Charles River, Boston Common, the gold dome of the State House. They are the views that will stay with Javid hours later, when he exclaims, “I can’t get over it.”
Our next stop is 45 Province in Downtown Crossing, a luxury tower that opened in 2010 and where, before the American Revolution, stood the original governor’s mansion. Compared to our last stop, 45 Province is genteel, as natural light fills the tranquil lobby.
The bedrooms, bathrooms, and kitchens in all the condos aren’t what make them feel like a million bucks. It’s the views, and the lifestyle they sell. 45 Province drips with exclusivity: 137 units with the possibility of over 85 different layouts; a “Club Level” with a movie‐theater‐style screening room; gym classes and spa treatments provided by Exhale. You get a lot because you pay a lot. Condo fees for a $1.6 million unit in buildings like these will run around $1,200 to $1,300 a month.
We visit several two‐bedroom, two‐bath units on the 17th and 22d floors, including one with aprivate terrace. Javid, in dark‐frame glasses and torn gray jeans, walks around, tapping counters, touching fixtures, peering into bathrooms. The views, while not as good as the W’s, are still magnificent: Boston Harbor peeks out from the left, Downtown Crossing sits below, Beacon Hill beckons on the right.
Haddad and founding partner A.J. Rich, through their brokerage, Northeast Real Estate Group , specialize in selling and managing real estate for foreign buyers, many of whom buy property when their kids go to college here. Parents get a condo either for the kid or as a crash pad for relatives who travel far for visits. In other cases, parents, like Javid’s, become enamored of Boston and buy property because they’re looking for a stable investment outside their countries. Javid’s father hopes to rent out the unit he buys for $7,500 to $8,500 a month.
Foreigners have snatched up 35 percent of the units at 45 Province, which, like the W, is over 90 percent sold. International buyers now account for roughly 5 to 6 percent of purchases in downtown Boston, double from a few years ago, said Kevin Ahearn of the brokerage and consulting firm Otis & Ahearn. This upscale clientele pays in cash and favors new construction, full‐service buildings, and panoramas.
In other words, don’t expect them to buy triple‐deckers in Dorchester. “They don’t look at rehabs,” Ahearn said.
Our last stop is Millennium Place. The 256‐unit building, which is 80 percent sold, opens next month. We get a sleek sales presentation, complete with a tour of model unit. Built by the developer of the Ritz‐ Carlton Hotel and Residences across the street, the Millennium features loft‐style condos with floor‐to‐ ceiling windows.
Javid’s family can buy anywhere in the world. They own multiple properties in London and Dubai. But Boston holds a special place. His younger sister may go to college here. Javid, who has a degree in biomedical engineering, is still living here and will apply to medical school or pursue jobs locally.
“The opportunities you get here are unreal,” Javid said. While he sees himself in Dubai in the long run, “Boston has so much to offer. I’m not done with it yet.”
We hop back into Haddad’s Range Rover and meet up with Rich back at their Boylston Street office to go over the properties. The W and 45 Province make the cut, but probably not Millennium Place, based on Javid’s father’s criteria.
“I don’t think he goes for anything without the views,” Rich tells Javid, who agrees and will confer with his father.
It’s hard to find anything in common between Boston and Dubai, except one thing: Buy and hold a long time. It’s a time‐honored real estate tradition that doesn’t ever get lost in translation.