4 Ways to Increase the Value of Your Back Bay Residence
April 1, 2020
Text by Kristin Amico
Boston has an abundance of historic neighborhoods, and Back Bay is one of its finest. The area was created in the nineteenth century by filling swampland, then building rowhouses as part of a massive city-planning project. The effort that went into creating a blueprint for a fashionable neighborhood more than 150 years ago has ensured its title as one of the best examples of a Victorian neighborhood in the United States, and one of the most coveted addresses on the East Coast.
For residents moving into the neighborhood or looking to undertake an improvement project, there are ways to make modern updates while also adding value to their Back Bay residence. Stephen Payne of Payne|Bouchier Fine Builders walks us through how to marry classic style with convenient amenities while also making design decisions that boost resale value.
Modernize the interior
“One of the best ways to add value to a Back Bay home while making it more livable for today’s busy homeowners is to update the interior, especially the kitchen,” Payne notes.
The bones of these formidable rowhouses are impressive, but the layout is often outdated. In the Victorian era, the kitchen was designed to be used by staff, and the dark, cramped room is typically at the garden level. It’s not a setup conducive to sun-filled spaces or large gatherings. Top-level rooms––boasting iconic views of the Boston skyline––were intended as staff housing quarters and are often devoid of finer detail work and large bathrooms.
Go big and make dramatic changes to the floor plan, Payne advises. Moving the kitchen up to the parlor level and into the center of the unit, as opposed to facing the back, provides easy access to the busiest room in the house and creates a layout that increases home value.
“It’s a big change for residents moving to the city from the suburbs. They are used to looking out the window into expansive backyards full of lush gardens and wildlife, but it’s one that we highly recommend.”
Embrace historic exteriors
While the interior should ultimately reflect your personal style, there are rules in place for the exteriors of Back Bay residences.
A big reason that buyers flock to Back Bay is because of the well-preserved architecture, and to maintain that style, the historic commission has restrictions on what can and cannot be altered. Taking those rules into consideration, exterior restoration—ranging from replacing eroded molding or fine detail work to window restoration—will make a big difference in curb appeal.
Historic windows are often overlooked for restoration, and Payne hopes to change that. “The beauty and craftsmanship that original windows add to a home cannot be overstated.”
But what to do with drafty, rattling windows that feel more Grey Gardens than Boston Brahmin? They can be cleaned, restored, and re-installed with energy-efficient insulation to keep out biting cold.
While green construction is often associated with modern materials, there are several ways to be eco-friendly. Reusing existing materials, like original windows, can be just as green as renovating a home with low-voltage lighting, bamboo surfaces, and ethically harvested wood. You’ll create less trash and use fewer materials in the process.
“Work with your building team to discuss environmentally friendly choices that fit into the renovation plan, and be sure the team carefully documents the process,” explains Payne. One of the best ways to increase a home’s value is to leave a responsible legacy that’s good for the environment. It’s also attractive to the next generation of buyers if and when you put your Back Bay residence on the market.
Parking is at a premium in the Back Bay and many new residents don’t realize that one of the most cost-effective renovations has nothing to do with historically accurate exteriors or dazzling kitchens. The addition of underground parking adds priceless convenience and will greatly boost the overall value of a home.
It’s not a small job, though. For those who need to do major excavation work to shore up the foundation, it makes sense to add parking as part of that phase of construction. For everyone else, work with your builder to create a plan hand-in-hand with the historic commission. With most layouts, it’s possible to add three to four spaces. With extras like garage lifts or a car turntable, parking can be hassle-free even in a small space.
Where to start?
To keep any project on track with an eye toward historical accuracy and resale value, Payne advises that homeowners start working with a builder before they make a purchase to understand what can and cannot be changed in a historic Back Bay residence. Ultimately, Payne|Bouchier Fine Builders wants to help residents create a blueprint for better living.
Payne|Bouchier Fine Builders, 173 Norfolk Ave., Boston, Mass. 02119
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