Searching for high-end real estate in Boston’s desirable South End can be relatively stress-free and even fun, as long as you’re aware of a few basic principles, including common market indicators and neighborhood statistics. Just like any Boston community, the South End has its drawbacks as well as its myriad charms. Read on for ways to improve, focus, and hone your real estate search as you’re scouring Boston’s South End.
Understand South End Market Value Indicators
Before you even begin perusing individual homes, it helps to get a sense of the neighborhood as a whole, and that includes market values. Get the skinny on homes that are currently on the market—as well as those under contract, recently sold, and recently expired or withdrawn (i.e. did not sell).
Once you’ve got your eye on a property, market indicators will help you to gauge whether the home is priced well. No property will be identically comparable to the ones you’ve researched, but you’ll be able to get a sense, based on square footage, number of bathrooms, and number of bedrooms, of whether the home is reasonably priced. Be sure to make adjustments for other dissimilar features, too—and pay close attention to the inclusion (or not) of parking spaces, which can ramp up property values by six figures.
And keep in mind that square footage, while valuable, isn’t everything. Many people use price per square foot as their sole metric when evaluating condos, but we urge you to keep an open mind. An oversized one-bedroom (more than 850 square feet, for example) or an undersized two-bedroom condo (around 900 square feet) bring the absolute price into the equation more so than the price per square foot. In essence, a larger one-bedroom unit will trade for a lesser price per square foot because its utility doesn’t increase equally with its square footage. Conversely, a smaller two-bedroom will trade for a higher price per square foot, since its utility is deemed greater than its square footage indicates.
Embrace the Diversity Within the South End
Within every neighborhood, you’ll find all manner of subset communities—and we’re here to break the South End down. Let’s start with the Golden Triangle, which includes Appleton Street, Warren Avenue, Chandler, Clarendon, Gray, Lawrence, and Montgomery Streets. The Golden Triangle’s streets boast some of the oldest Victorian townhouses and brownstones in the country, adding storied charm to this desirable neighborhood. Results of a 2014 census indicate that almost 54% of Golden Triangle inhabitants identify as male, and 85% as Caucasian. Within the Golden Triangle, inventory turnover is traditionally very low—so any availability won’t last long.
For an area with less hubbub, consider shopping around St. Botolph—this region includes Garrison, Harcourt, West Newton, Albemarle, Cumberland, Durham, Blackwood, and Follen Streets. Bordering the bustling Prudential business district, St. Botolphnevertheless features a neighborly, subdued quality that appeals to families and those working from home.
Shop the glitzy, fast-paced Prudential area for properties nestled in the triangle between Boylston, Massachusetts Avenue, and Huntington Avenue. Encompassing such luxury buildings as The Mandarin Oriental, 100 Belvedere, the Four Seasons Tower, and 30 Dalton Street, the lively Prudential Area is ideal for anyone enamored with the pace of big city life.
It pays to explore the Southwest Corridor Annex, which includes Yarmouth, West Canton, Holyoke, and Braddock. This micro-neighborhood boasts easy access to the Prudential area, yet is flanked by tranquil public green spaces, including its namesake, the lengthy Southwest Corridor Park. Within walking distance to a children’s play area and a fenced-in dog park, the Southwest Corridor Annex is ideal for those who crave city life—with a taste of the natural world alongside.
There’s Pilot Block, which encompasses the lower half of West Canton along with West Newton, Pembroke, West Brookline, and Warren Avenue. Just a short walk to the Prudential area, Pilot Block offers quiet one-way streets and appealing green spaces, including Dartmouth Square, James Hayes Park, and Harriet Tubman Square. Restaurants and local boutiques cluster the southernmost end of this family-friendly neighborhood.
Eight Streets includes, as the name suggests, the eight streets of Berkeley, Dwight, Milford, Hanson, Waltham, Ringgold, Bond, and Taylor. Bordering the Golden Triangle, Eight Streets’ green spaces include Ringgold Park and Union Park. Restaurants, markets, and boutiques border the northern and southern sides of this centrally located community.
Chester Square, situated around a segment of Massachusetts Avenue with Chester Park as its center, includes parts of Tremont, West Springfield, Northampton, Shawmut, Comet, and Washington. Seated at the southernmost tip of the South End, Chester Square residents walk approximately 15 minutes to reach the Prudential Center.
Take the time to explore the Worcester Square Area, bordered by Massachusetts Avenue, Albany, Washington, and East Canton Streets. With close proximity to Boston University’s world-class medical center, the Worcester Square area appeals to businesspeople and healthcare workers alike.
SoWa, an abbreviation of ‘South of Washington,’ represents Washington Street, East Berkeley, Albany, and East Canton Streets. Home to a popular farmer’s market, SoWa proudly features fresh, local produce, artwork, and crafts for sale every Sunday. Green spaces round out this unique, hip neighborhood.
And lovers of Whole Foods will appreciate the Ink Block neighborhood, which borders the southern end of Boston’s Financial District. It has more than its fair share of retail opportunities as it continues to expand and develop a larger commercial and residential footprint. Encompassed by Albany, East Berkeley, and Washington Streets, Ink Block also includes parts of Traveler and Harrison.
Understand Common Condo Styles in Boston’s South End
It’s not unusual to admire Victorian brownstones alongside modern luxury high-rise buildings in Boston’s South End, and as the neighborhood grows and expands, we’re witnessing the expansion of the new along with the restoration of the old. Most South End interiors, regardless of the exterior, boast modern facets in both style and renovation. Expect to see a variety of condo styles as you search for your dream home—you’ll likely view floor-throughs, duplexes, triplexes, and single family units.
Here’s a quick breakdown: In a floor-through, the apartment occupies the entire floor – often, these units are situated on the uppermost floor and are marketed as penthouses, with skyline views on four sides. Duplexes spread a single dwelling over two floors, connected by an interior stair, and triplexes spread the dwelling over three floors. A single-family dwelling means that one family owns the entire building.
Know Your Neighbors: Who Lives in the South End?
The South End represents a diverse population of renters and owners – students and young professionals represent the burgeoning South End apartment rental sector, while families and established professionals are in the market for South End condos and single families. Most neighborhoods offer close proximity to universities, hospitals, and museums – attracting everyone from students to families to academics to medical professionals.
A 2011 American Community Survey broke the South End down as follows: Ten percent of the populace is between the ages of 8 and 24. The majority – 20% – are between 30 and 39, and 15% are over 60. Around 5,500 families inhabit the South End, and around 35% had children in school. Almost 60% of South End males were never married; 50% of South End females had never married.
Trustworthy Brokers are Key
As you navigate the complex and fascinating world of South End luxury real estate, be sure to enlist the services of a broker you can trust. Solicit recommendations from within your network – word-of- mouth is often the best way to find someone of quality. Ideally, it’s best to select a broker with at least five million dollars of transaction value in that specific neighborhood – this indicates that the broker has a proven track record of success in the area where you’ll be focused. And it makes sense to choose a broker who practices real estate full-time; they’ll be most attentive to the current market, and you’re less likely to risk missing a special off-market opportunity because your broker was not plugged in.