Pauline Bennett
New England President, Coldwell Banker
Industry experience: 21 years 

Pauline Bennett has a good perch to watch the urban luxury market grow as Coldwell Banker’s New England regional president. A recent company report recently named Boston as one of the top destinations for luxury homebuyers nationwide, drawing “urban repatriates” who revel in the experience of city living with easy access to a huge range of cultural offerings and restaurants. Nearly 5,000 people who call Boston home have a net worth of over $5 million, the brokerage said, nearly 40 percent of whom have a net worth above $10 million. They’re a significant force in the residential market, with 1,661 of the city’s residential properties worth over $1 million sitting in the hands of people with a net worth of $10 million or more. 

Bennett herself has spent the last 10 years climbing the ranks at Coldwell Banker and its parent company NRT. After over a decade as a top-producing real estate in coastal Connecticut, she moved into managing brokerages in the state’s picturesque Shoreline communities before running highly profitable Coldwell Banker divisions in Florida and North and South Carolina. She returned to her roots in 2019 to run the company’s New England division. 

Q: 2021 has been an intense year for real estate agents, with stress levels higher than ever. How can agents make their way in 2022?
A: To me, it’s all about getting listings. The intensity is less if you have a listing in today’s market. If you have a buyer who’s made 10 offers and they’ve lost out every time and they’re getting frustrated, the fatigue level is higher. 

The second rule of thumb is to take things in stride and have the boundaries that you can in this business and to set expectations now is more crucial than ever…. Communication and showing expertise in the market is also really important. It might be counterintuitive to slow the pace down with a buyer right now but slowing the pace and setting expectations with the buyer about what the market is like and preparing them to put their best foot forward will help. The more you can demonstrate your expertise and the more you can lead a buyer through the market, the more it can help smooth those turbulent waters.  

Q: Speaking of next year, Coldwell Banker recently named Boston a top destination for wealthy buyers, particularly those looking for urban homes. What’s driving that? All the biotech industry growth?
A: Certainly, that’s a big portion of it. Boston is really a nest, a birthing ground of future talent, future leaders who go right into fintech and biotech. That certainly brings a lot of that wealth comes here for that. And let’s face it, it’s also regular, good old-fashioned supply and demand. We don’t have a lot of sprawl here that can help us creep out of this [inventory shortage]. It makes the value of that core raise higher and higher – the Back Bay, the South End. The Seaport is probably our closest to sprawl and that’s only a mile away [from the Back Bay].  

People are asking about inflation rates and people are thinking about that in terms of real estate appreciation. Have we reached our high-water mark? I don’t think so. All the brain power we have here equals buying power. 

Q: Could the Federal Reserve’s recent decision to start raising interest rates next year put a damper on this?
A: The numbers of people here with a net worth of over $5 million – the change of another $100 in your monthly mortgage payment is not going to make a difference. Unfortunately, that may impact first-time home buyers in other parts of the world, but I don’t see it impacting the greater Boston luxury market in a negative way. It may get people off the fence sooner. When I was buying and selling, we considered the spring market from March 15 to Tax Day. Now it’s starting Jan. 2.  

Q: Could the omicron variant also offer headwinds by deterring foreign buyers? 
A: [Foreign buyers] are absolutely coming back. I live in the Back Bay and when I’m on my morning walk, I hear four or five languages. When travel restrictions eased, we absolutely saw and heard the influx of the international person coming back into the market. And certainly, from a buying perspective we want them here. 

Q: Overall, what kind of market will these luxury buyers be walking into this spring?
A: I think they’re going to have more choice than they’ve had. As some of these towers are coming to completion and starting to be offered. They’re going to experience the typical Boston lifestyle again. It’ll be competitive but they’re going to have great options. What does that Boston lifestyle mean? Art’s back. The symphony is back this year. The restaurants – we’ve got Gordon Ramsey coming into town. The walking, the vibrant history and again the real enjoyment of the diversity that Boston and the surrounding towns bring. It creates a really vibrant offering for people…. East Boston is certainly grabbing people who want to be as close to the center as they can get, and builders have been going to there to offer product. No one is going to count South Boston out of the picture. It’s all the markets and neighborhoods. 

 Bennett’s Five Favorites 

  • Favorite Spot in Boston: Boston Public Garden
  • Favorite Room: The kitchen
  • Favorite Pet: Her Welsh terrier, Eli
  • Favorite Activity: Hiking with her husband
  • Favorite Holiday: Thanksgiving

Boston’s Luxury Market Returns

by James Sanna time to read: 4 min