Sites

Why empty nesters and luxury condos go hand in hand in Boston

Buying Luxury
A view of Watermark Seaport.
A view of Watermark Seaport. Courtesy of Skanska

It’s a recurring thought for Bostonians walking around their city as more and more luxury towers spring up: Who can afford to live in all these places anyway?

In the case of high-end, amenity-laden condo and apartment buildings, the answer is often empty nesters, flush with cash from a booming suburban home market and eager for a change.

In fact, Boston was recently ranked the No. 1 city empty nesters would flock to in 2016.

Frann Bilus, a broker/realtor at Compass, said many of the clients she works with are looking for “a more vibrant lifestyle, to change things up now that the kids are out of the house, to reduce their commuting time and time spent on maintenance, for easier access to all the city has to offer, and to be able to walk where they want to go, which is a real change from suburban living.”

Those are almost exactly the motivations that spurred Cherie Coughlin and her husband Bruce, both in their 50s, to move the Seaport District.

“We had a house in the suburbs and a summer home on the Cape,” Cherie told Boston.com. “My last child was going off to college and the housing market had become where we could sell. We sold our house in the suburbs and moved to our house on the Cape.”

That was almost two years ago, but even before moving from Medway to the Cape, Cherie said she knew at some point the couple would want to get a place in the city.

“[Bruce] works long hours and travels a lot, so getting to the airport was tough,” Cherie said of their life in the suburbs and on the Cape.

She did a ton of research and looked at a few different neighborhoods, finally narrowing down her search to the Seaport area, as Bruce would be able to walk to work. Though Cherie mentioned her husband was skeptical of the move at first, she knew exactly what she wanted.

“Throughout the process I realized there were things I wasn’t willing to do,” Cherie said. “Laundry outside of home or in common place. I didn’t want to drive around block for a parking spot — those were two things.”

Larry Rideout, the CEO and owner of Gibson Sotheby’s International Realty, said it’s common for couples like the Coughlins to prefer full service luxury buildings.

“They want spas and hairstylists,” Rideout said. “You almost don’t have to leave the building and that’s very attractive to empty nesters. Elevators are also a key thing.”

An interior of a unit at Watermark Seaport. (Note: this is not the couple's actual apartment)
An interior of a unit at Watermark Seaport. (Note: this is not the couple’s actual apartment) —Courtesy of Skanska

Rideout explains that this whole process was much more difficult just a few years ago, when suburban homeowners had lost a lot of value on their homes, and there were far fewer spots for them to land in the city anyway. Both of those factors have turned around.

Greater Boston recovered from the recession quicker than most other cities and because of that home values in the area have now surpassed their pre-crash record.

And, of course, Boston proper has seen a big boom in construction.

“In real estate several years ago the market wasn’t moving,” Rideout said. “New construction wasn’t kicking in and it was tying everything up. [There was the] explosion of the ultra-luxury market in the Boston metro — what has happened is the empty nester now has a place to go.”

A kitchen in a unit at Watermark Seaport. (Note: this is not the couple's actual apartment)
A kitchen in a unit at Watermark Seaport. (Note: this is not the couple’s actual apartment) —Courtesy of Skanska

After surveying the market for a while and looking seriously for about a month, the Coughlins ended up moving into a one-bedroom apartment at the Watermark Seaport in January — the first day it opened.

“I love it,” Cherie said. “The location, the fact that I have a beautiful view — it is a very comfortable unit to be in. It has all the amenities you could want. The rooftop just opened and there is nothing not to love.”

Despite his initial hesitancy to downsize, Bruce loves it too.

“He pretty much looks and he goes, ‘oh you were right’ and I’m like, ‘thank you’,” Cherie added.

Bruce has a four minute walk to work. Cherie drives, but has a reverse commute.

“When I am not working I am walking,” Cherie said. “I walk to restaurants, I walk in wind, I walk in snow — I really enjoy that part.”

A view from an apartment at Watermark Seaport. (Note: this is not the couple's actual apartment)
A view from an apartment at Watermark Seaport. (Note: this is not the couple’s actual apartment) —Courtesy of Skanska