All About Decks

There's something about having outside space when living in the city that's priceless. But how much are you willing to pay for pricelessness? Steven discusses what it means to have a deck on the roof or back of the building in Boston's South End.


Private outdoor space with your South End property. A lot of buyers are seeking it, either a roof deck, a rear deck, possibly a garden. And they're all great amenities to have--they do add significantly, however, to the cost of your property.

Often what sells the best are the roof decks with the sweeping panoramic views. But I look at those more as the sizzle, as opposed to the rear deck or the garden immediately contiguous to the living area, that's really the steak. This is what people tend to use more often than they do the roof decks. Are roof decks common? Well, yes, some kind of outdoor space comes with them--I would say not fully half of South End properties, but a good number of them. But, again, a way to save money and get some of the other amenities, perhaps, that you might be looking for and keeping it under your price point ceiling, is to go for something that maybe doesn't have the private outdoor space.

When you want to add outdoor space, you've got a couple of factors you have to consider. A lot of people will buy a property and sort of think about maybe putting on a rear deck. In order to do so, you do need, first of all, if it's a condominium property, to have the permission internally within your condominium association. This is something that if you don't have, you're going to have to seek from your condominium mates. And when you add a deck you are effectively changing the beneficial interests of other parties within the building and, therefore, you pretty much do need unanimous consent. Although the people above you don't tend to mind if you're putting a deck on; it's the people below you who might be shaded.

Then you need to go to South End Landmarks, because they're going to have jurisdiction if your outdoor space is seen from the street. They're going to want to weigh in on that, and they have various sight lines and means of determining whether or not they will permit it.

And finally, because the deck is effectively increasing the floor space of your property, you often need to go to the Zoning Board of Appeals and the Zoning Board of Appeals will make the determination after a hearing as to whether or not it's permissible. And that's factoring in, perhaps, the objection of rebutters and looking at the precedent along your street. But they have been tightening those restrictions. Decks, for example, can no longer have posts going to the ground, they must be cantilevered, and the size of decks has also been trimmed back. But, one way or another, once you get one, you usually don't want to give it up.