Outdoor space, whether communal or private to individual units, has always been at the top of the most-desired amenities list for condominium and co-op purchasers. A small terrace or balcony can add hours of quiet enjoyment to apartment living — not to mention thousands of dollars to the value of a given unit. Recent sales data suggests that apartments with private exterior space, and buildings with common areas enabling residents to enjoy safe outdoor access during the COVID-19 pandemic, are selling more quickly and at higher prices than comparable units without those features. In many markets, single-family homes are selling at record speed — and for record prices. Even homes with in-ground pools — often considered ‘white elephants’ in the Before Times, thanks to the maintenance and upkeep they require — are selling at a huge premium.
New England Condominium spoke to one suburban Stamford, Connecticut couple who prefer to remain anonymous about their selling experience. They report that only two years ago, their four-bedroom mid-1970s home with an in-ground pool and jacuzzi was ‘unsellable’ at a price acceptable to them. Fast-forward to this past November, when it sold — for more than their asking price and with multiple bids — in one weekend.
Condominium and cooperative communities have a lot to consider when it comes to translating exterior amenities into a competitive sales advantage. Buildings that weren’t built with individual terraces and balconies can’t really overhaul their fundamental structure to add those elements, nice as that would be. There are, of course, other options available to provide a safe, monitored, exterior space for residents to access in good weather, but they vary depending on building type; obviously, high-rise buildings have different options than more horizontal communities. As always, though, necessity is the mother of invention, and boards and communities must be inventive if they want to build out, enhance, or upgrade their outside spaces.
Alan Gaynor is an architect and a principal of Boddewyn Gaynor Architects, a firm based in New York that works all up and down the East Coast, including projects in New Jersey and New England. “Outdoor space has become very important since the beginning of the pandemic,” says Gaynor. “Buyers are increasingly looking for it — to the point that anyone designing a building today who is not including outdoor space is crazy, because it will affect salability. When I
originally bought my apartment, I wanted outdoor space, but couldn’t afford it. Now it’s more important than ever. If you can’t have private outdoor space such as a terrace or balcony, outdoor community space is nice to have. We now have a roof garden in our building. Truthfully, it’s not much of a garden, but it’s there and really valuable now.”