Touted as a boutique luxury condo development that offered more expansive floor plans than neighboring buildings, the Bryant Back Bay missed its stride with the buying market and has reverted to an auction event to generate new demand for the some 45 units remaining for sale in the building.
According to LINK (one of Boston’s two MLS systems), 5 unites at the Bryant Back Bay, a 50-unit high-end development on the border of the Back Bay and the South End, have been sold. These units have an average sales price per square foot of $826, a figure significantly bolstered by the sale of a single penthouse unit at $1,479 per square foot.
On paper, the development has a tremendous amount going for itself. From a convenient and desirable location to direct elevator access floor-through units. When construction began in October 2006, the building generated a significant amount of anticipation for sprawling three, and sometimes four, bedroom condos in a new construction Back Bay / South End building. Yet there were a number of factors that ultimately impacted the Bryant’s ability to drive sales velocity.
The Bryant is a ground-up new construction building, and not unexpectantly, the development pushed out the scheduled occupancy date five times, and in the end, missed its mark of opening by over a year. Buyers, rightfully so, are hesitant to buy in earlier to a new development, oftentimes signing a purchase and sale agreement months before construction completes, however, if the occupancy date is continuously pushed out, Buyers become even more hesitant to place reservations in a building, tying up personal capital in deposits of anywhere from 5-10% of a unit’s purchase price. One of the most notable concerns from Buyers was the proximity of the Bryant to the 131 Dartmouth building, and the potential impact it could have on views and light in the Bryant. If you fast forward to the present, while 131 Dartmouth is immediately visible outside of the Bryant’s bedroom windows, 131 Dartmouth tapers away from the Bryant, and especially in the summer months, this spacing allows light to pour into the back half of units. Nonetheless, Buyers weren’t able to gain this knowledge first-hand because a model unit was not developed inside the building until late in the Bryant’s sales cycle. In lieu of a true model unit, potential Buyers visited the sales center adjacent to the Bryant to see a sample kitchen and bath, but unfortunately, could not get a true feel for lighting and flow of an actual unit in the building.
During the latter half of 2007, another luxury condo development, 285 Columbus Lofts, began construction (or more accurately, began redevelopment). Unfortunately for the Bryant, 285 Columbus Lofts was two doors down the street, and while the two buildings differ on some levels, the property represented direct competition for the Bryant at a lower price point. It was during the latter half of 2007 and early part of 2008 when the Bryant made its biggest slips. While the Bryant began pushing out its occupancy date from Spring 2008 to August 2008, 285 Columbus Lofts actually moved their occupancy date up, from June 2008 to May 2008. And the key here was that 285 Columbus Lofts delivered on their prediction. This was the first condo development to be delivered on time or ahead of schedule in quite some time. Price points at 285 Columbus Lofts were lower, and the development was quickly approaching sold out status when it opened its doors to residents in late May 2008. Nothing should be taken away from 285 Columbus Lofts launching so quickly, and finishing ahead of schedule, but as it relates to the Bryant, 285 Columbus Lofts did have a leg up on the competition by doing a gut rehab project versus a ground up new building construction.
In the spring of 2009, the Bryant was rebranded from the ‘Bryant on Columbus’ to the ‘Bryant Back Bay’, and in conjunction with that, the developers, Vornado Realty Trust and Wasserman Real Estate Capital LLC, switched listing brokerages from Otis & Ahearn to Campion & Company. The renaming of the development attempted to drive deeper association with the prestige of the Back Bay versus any connotations the development carried sitting on the border of the Back Bay and the South End. Despite 3 additional units going under agreement relatively quickly following these changes, the shifts still left 90% of the building sitting vacant, and the developers decided to leverage an entirely different strategy to generate cash flow and take out existing debt, an auction.
Accelerated Marketing Partners, led by Jon Gollinger, announced on September 22, 2009 that they would take 10 of the available 45 units from the Bryant Back Bay and auction them off to the highest bidder during an October 17, 2009 auction event. Gollinger’s thoughts are that rather than drag out the normal listing process, it’s much more effective to sell a bunch of units at once, figure out what the market is willing to pay, and then coordinate prices on any remaining units in the building. This tactic, of auctioning only a small pool of remaining units in a building followed by trying to sell remaining units post-auction at auction prices (auction pricing without the auction) is a tactic that has been relatively effective for Nouvelle at Natick. The Nouvelle development recently auctioned off 43 units, and in a week’s time, has sold 17 additional units at prices established at the auction (see Nouvelle at Natick Condo Auction Results).
There will be seven 3-bedroom units and three two-bedroom units auctioned at the Bryant on October 17th, with minimum bid prices ranging from $1,075,000 to $1,475,000 ($476 to $811 per square foot). The appraised value of the Bryant Back Bay condos will be left to lenders, but Buyers can look at average sales price per square foot for the past 6 months in the Back Bay of $746 and the South End of $577 as a very high-level starting point.
Given the legacy of the Bryant Back Bay project, an auction to at least kick start sales velocity for remaining units in the development appears to be the next logical option in the sales process, especially in light of success that the auction sales format has had on other downtown Boston, and metro-Boston, properties.