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jim @ JimSellsBoston com



This page is not cluttered with historical or demographic data. That information is available elsewhere. The focus here is on the things which you might find important. Instructions for viewing Back Bay real estate listings are found at the bottom of this article...


Before the 1820’s, the City of Boston was a relatively modest-sized port town on just a small plot of land called the Shawmut Peninsula. This Peninsula extended south from Boston and narrowed into the “Boston Neck,” a thin stretch of land connecting Boston to Brookline and other outlying towns. Back Bay at this time was literally the salt water bay on the western shore of the Shawmut Peninsula and the Boston Neck. By the 1800’s, the success of Boston’s shipping and manufacturing industries had quickly transformed the city into an overcrowded area. In 1856, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts decided to fill in the Back Bay bay and to construct a new neighborhood on top of what had become a wasteland. After nearly 25 years of land moving, the entire Back Bay was filled from the Public Garden to Kenmore Square.

Designed on a strict street grid, unique for Boston at the time, the mostly 3 to 4 story brownstone houses were designed by different architects but thanks to strict regulations, they all integrated aesthetically. The houses had every amenity and were of high quality. The new Back Bay neighborhood quickly developed into Boston’s premier arts and culture center. Copley Square (originally Art Square) housed the original Museum of Fine Arts and the original campus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). In 1895, construction of the Boston Public Library, the nation’s first branch library, was completed. It attracted many rich Bostonians who moved from the South End or Beacon Hill to this new fashionable district. Even today, Back Bay is a popular and wealthy district.

Back Bay is now a thriving commercial center and one of Boston’s most prestigious neighborhoods. It accounts for 18% of Boston jobs, houses 50% of the city’s hotels, and is home to 26,000 residents. Within just one-half square mile, the Back Bay offers world-class architecture, exceptional shopping and dining, luxury and mid-priced hotels, first-class commercial office space, historic homes and churches, and a host of prominent medical, educational, and cultural institutions.

Amid this extraordinary range and volume of activity, concentrated in such a compact area, Back Bay also manages to retain the charm of a residential neighborhood. Its pedestrian-friendly sidewalks feature stately brownstones and spacious, shady promenades. One of the most desirable and fashionable neighborhoods in the city, centered on world-famous Newbury Street (sometimes called the Rodeo Drive of Boston) and Boylston Street, and home to upscale shops, lively, sidewalk cafes, exotic florists, art galleries, fashionable clothing boutiques and hair salons, and people from all corners of the world, Back Bay is both a marvel of urban design and an essential driving force for the local and regional economy. It IS affluent Boston at its best! Back Bay offers fun activities and attractions along with plenty of outdoor waterfront recreational space.

Back Bay takes up a major portion of Boston’s magnificent skyline. Its bounds are considered to be: the Charles River on the North; Arlington Street to Park Square on the East; Columbus Avenue to the New York New Haven and Hartford right-of-way (South of Stuart Street and Copley Place), Huntington Avenue, Dalton Street, and the Massachusetts Turnpike on the South; Charlesgate East on the West. (See map.) Across the Charles River in Cambridge is a great place to see the whole neighborhood. From there you’ll see the Esplanade running along the river, the John Hancock Tower and the Prudential Center rising up into the sky, and sail boats cruising across the water. In the evening, lights from its office and residential buildings illuminate the landscape with colorful reflections.

Other major points of interest are the Public Garden, the 1877 Trinity Church, Copley Place, Commonwealth Avenue, the Hynes Convention Center and the beautiful Christian Science Plaza.

Come, relocate to Back Bay and live in one of its rows of Victorian brownstone homes, which are considered one of the best-preserved examples of 19th-century urban design in the United States; or, take up residence in some of the city's most expensive high-rise, luxury residences such as: The Ritz Carlton, The Mandarin, Four Seasons, Heritage on the Garden, One Charles, Trinity Place, The W, The Grandview, The Bryant, The Province, The Barnes Mansion, The Meads, just to name a few!

Located along the Back Bay's grand boulevards of Beacon, Marlboro, and Commonwealth stand some of the Northeast's most expensive selection of grand townhouses along with the largest selection of luxury condominiums: small studios, floor-thru's, duplexes, triplexes, and a wonderful mix of new-construction, full-service, luxury-concierge residences, loft-style buildings, and converted school houses and churches.

The St. Botolph neighborhood, stretching from Huntington Ave. to the north, the Southwest Corridor to the south, Harcourt Ave. to the east, and Massachusetts Ave. to the west, is a lesser known part of the Back Bay consisting almost entirely of brownstones with many dead-end streets abutting the Southwest Corridor - the neighborhood borders the South End. Residential parking is available to those with a Back Bay parking sticker; otherwise, here is a list of parking lots and taxi companies for you to download and print.

If you have a specific property in mind that you think you might like to buy, The City of Boston maintains a database for the City Assessor which you can access to see what value the City gives the property and what the annual taxes are. Boston does offer a residential tax break for primary residences for which you might need to apply after your purchase.

Boston is a city of neighborhoods. Access the City of Boston's official website, including the neighborhood of Back Bay. If you have school-age children, Back Bay lies in the Boston Public School district. Its transportation policies are outlined here. Since we do not live in a perfect world, police/crime reports are available.

The Back Bay Sun, "Shedding new light on an old neighborhood", is the purveyor of local news. Also online is The Patch, Boston City Paper, and, of course, the Boston Globe, and the Boston Herald. The Boston Courant or The Back Bay Courant which serves the Back Bay, Beacon Hill, Downtown, Fenway, and South End does not currently have a web site.

Sold Statistics for Back Bay

Single Family:
2012 - 14 sales. List Price - $5,304,000 Sale Price - $4,727,821   Market Time - 344 days
2011 - 31 sales. List Price - $2,940,677 Sale Price - $2,735,565   Market Time - 204 days
2010 - 7 sales. List Price - $4,630,429 Sale Price - $3,837,429   Market Time - 199 days

2012 - 541 sales. List Price - $1,234,411 Sale Price - $1,181,283 Market Time - 105 days
2011 - 165 sales. List Price - $813,867 Sale Price - $766,582  Market Time - 75 days
2010 - 136 sales. List Price - $778,362 Sale Price - $740,626    Market Time - 131 days

Multi-Family Listings:
2012 - 5 sales. List Price - $3,080,000 Sale Price - $3,154,800   Market Time - 76 days
2011 - 1 sales. List Price - $1,195,000 Sale Price - $1,080,000   Market Time - 109 days
2010 - 3 sales. List Price - $2,298,333 Sale Price - $2,108,667   Market Time - 54 days

The numbers of Back Bay single-family and multi-family sales do not warrant comment because the results are not consistent enough to draw any kind of worthwhile conclusions. Back Bay sales are consistenly and predominantly of condominiums. Although sales were robust in 2011 with a modest 3.4% increase in value over 2010, sales in 2012 were off the chart! Values did not rise 150% as shown above because the average sale price was skewered by the sale of a $10,000,000 condo.

To view all of the current MLS real estate listings in Back Bay, you will need an ID which is "2347595" and the password "Jim". You can login here anonymously anytime, daily or weekly, as often as you wish. If you should see any properties you would like to view in person, give Jim a call or send a text or email indicating which properties and a couple of time frames and Jim will try to schedule you appropriately - please keep in mind that some owners and/or agents require 24-48 hrs advance notice and additionally keeping within a 30-60 minute window if they also require an accompanied showing.