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When Charming Loses its Charm

It was something I heard a lot when I moved to Boston and a phrase I used as a rookie agent when showing apartments.

Charming. I used to really feel like old units WERE charming. 

The gracious foyers with the chandeliers and crown molding. The walnut stained wainscotting hugging the sides of a winding staircase. The leaded glass hutch carefully installed in the dining room wall. 

That word then became synonymous with a place being, well, a dump. We would joke that it was “charming” rather than a sh*thole. 

So when did charming lose its charm? 

You could argue several different points but I’m going to offer one BIG opinion of my own. 

First, and this is something that we focus on at Kingston REM quite a bit- consider your audience. Brookline/Brighton’s renter population is primarily young adults, college aged or early thirtysomethings. This may not mean much to you and I because, hell, I used to like the charming stuff when I was that age. 

Then we think back to what sort of options were available to us before Boston went through it’s apartment building boom. Not much other than older buildings, triple deckers or brownstones. There were your 1970-1980 style buildings that stuck out here and there but those, I would argue, were the “ugly ducklings” and not the preferred style. Finding a nice, clean (and *gasp* RENOVATED?!) brownstone unit was like finding the crown jewel! It’s those where you’d admire the creaky hardwood floors, the claw foot tubs and the push button light switches. It was all part of the charm and if the kitchen was nicely updated, you were the envy of all your friends! 

Now, with newer buildings coming into play, people are starting to realize that they don’t have to put up with the “quirky” things that come with living in an old building. Things like neighbors stomping around above you, installing window air conditioners only to find a) there’s no outlet or b) the outlet you do use can’t handle the thought of plugging in a hair dryer as well or sharing laundry machines in a dirt floor basement. 

New apartment living offers you huge conveniences and now, with all the building around the greater Boston area attracting younger people, the idea of living in the ‘burbs, so-to-speak, doesn’t feel as “suburban” as it once did. New inventory in those areas is right about the same cost as they’d get something older in the Brookline/Brighton areas. 

The product is moving the population over location. 

This is a dynamic that is new to the Boston rental market. 

It’s time for us to stop kidding ourselves. Old isn’t charming. Old is old and today’s renters are more demanding than ever. They’re also much more flexible with their location- preferring to live in emerging neighborhoods in new inventory rather than the alternative.

If you ever catch me outside or want to grab a coffee to discuss this or anything real estate related, please reach out to me anytime. My mobile number is 617-308-6338 and my email address is [email protected]. I’d be delighted to hear from any of you.