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How local laws may derail plans to convert offices to apartments

On Behalf of | Jan 26, 2024 | Land Use And Zoning |

Discussions about property development often focus on unimproved land. The fastest way to create a business opportunity is to start from the ground up in many cases. However, those with an interest in real estate investing may buy property that already has improvements installed. For example, businesses and individual investors sometimes purchase commercial properties. A large office building could give a company space in which to operate or provide an investor with an opportunity to earn passive income from rent. Unfortunately, demand for office spaces has declined noticeably in recent years.

While the overall Massachusetts real estate market remains strong, those who own office buildings may have higher vacancy rates than others renting property and may go longer in between tenants. One of the ways that those already invested in commercial spaces could overcome the changing market is by converting office space to residential space. There could be a major legal challenge for property owners contemplating this option in Massachusetts.

Rezoning a property can be quite difficult

Depending on the location of the property and the current zoning, it may be more difficult than individuals initially realize to change the zoning for the property. Addressing zoning issues often needs to occur before any other major moves for renovating the property. Otherwise, the developer planning the renovations could be at risk of losing what they invest because they cannot list the residential units for sale or rent.

A property already zoned for commercial use may require rezoning or a zoning variance. Both procedures can take months to complete and may require substantial investment from the property owner. Those investments must occur before massive changes to the property itself, which could prove equally expensive and time-consuming. The total project costs for an office building conversion can be quite substantial, but the property owner could profit if the renovations are successful.

Rezoning a property or securing a variance is sometimes a viable solution when office spaces no longer generate the revenue that the property owner requires. Seeking legal guidance to review the current zoning for a property and the impact that the conversion of a building might have on the local community can help owners evaluate whether turning a particular office building into an apartment building is a realistic project.


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