Yet another thing to file under “Only in Boston”: the venerable old triple decker.

These uniquely designed homes were hugely popular at the turn of the 20th century to house a booming immigrant population. Hard working families were looking for greener pastures, especially in JP and anywhere the streetcar could get them, and the three decker houses provided an affordable path to bigger and better housing. From the time they were first built, triple deckers have almost always been a source of income for a landlord-tenant; that is, the owner would live on one floor and rent out the other two to cover costs. They’ve been a reliable source of income for their owners ever since.

That said, lots of people have no interest in being landlords, and there’s a booming market for “condo-izing” triple deckers into separate properties to sell. Whether you plan to do your own work as an owner-landlord or add to your condo portfolio for flipping or managing, you’ll want to consider your triple decker renovations carefully. The right choices can make a big difference when it comes to maximizing your income from that Boston condo renovation. Consider these six ideas as you draw up your condo conversion building plans:

    1. Add an Extra Bedroom: If your triple decker is within walking distance of a college campus, you can attract students to your rental units. They’re often looking to share the space with more friends, whether they like them or just want to cut costs. If you can reconfigure the interior to squeeze in another bedroom, it can make your property more attractive to students.
    2. Upgrade the Kitchen: A minor kitchen remodel to upgrade appliances and add some higher-end features like new cabinets and granite counters goes a long way. Everyone loves a great kitchen, and it’s always one of the top remodeling jobs for return on investment. This is especially important if you’re planning to sell a unit instead of renting it.
    3. Add Insulation: Not one of the sexier renovations, but older homes really suffer in the comfort department if you skip this step. A long Boston winter may be enough to scare away your tenants if your triple decker is drafty and hard to heat. It’s also a great investment if you’re the one picking up the bill for those oil tank fill-ups.
    4. Upgrade the Parking: Speaking of winter, offering off-street parking is a major selling point. If you can possibly shoehorn a parking space onto your property, do it. If you’ve got a garage that’s full of junk, clean it out and make it part of the deal to attract tenants who love their cars. This is especially important if your property isn’t super-close to the T.
    5. Modernize the Bathroom: Aging fixtures in the bathroom should be replaced. Most people aren’t wild about living in a museum, and a modern bathroom will look bright and clean. New toilets and faucets can also save money on the water bill — again, a big deal if you’re the landlord responsible for that payment.
    6. Choose Colors Wisely: Brighten up the space with modern neutrals, but avoid plain white paint to keep things from looking too antiseptic. Pale gray is a big trend right now, as are warm, pale shades of mushroom and “greige.” These colors go with everything and feel fresh, which will help buyers or tenants fall in love with your property.

If you’re not sure about the best way to market your property, it’s best to talk to a  professional about it. They’ll help you figure out what the local market looks like in your neighborhood and how to best update your triple decker to make it as attractive as possible.

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