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.
CooperatorNews 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 leveraging exterior amenities into a competitive sales advantage. Clearly, buildings that don’t feature individual terraces and balconies can’t really rebuild their facades to add them. But there are other options available to them to provide a safe, monitored, exterior space for residents to access in good weather. There are many options, varying depending on building type. High-rise buildings have different options from more horizontal communities. As always though, necessity is the mother of invention, and boards and communities must be inventive when working around space constraints, zoning and building regulations, and budgetary limitations.
Alan Gaynor is an architect and a principal of Boddewyn Gaynor Architects based in New York City. They have completed projects all over the metropolitan area, including several in New Jersey. “[Outdoor space] has become very important since the beginning of the pandemic,” he says. “Anyone designing a building today who is not including outdoor space is crazy. It will affect salability. Buyers are increasingly looking for it. 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.”
Gaynor points out that there are many possible places for a co-op or condominium community to establish usable outdoor space, but the roof is usually the first choice. While an expensive and sometimes technically difficult undertaking, roof decks provide residents with what might be the best option. There’s likely to be more direct sunlight for longer periods of the day than in a courtyard or quadrangle at ground level, and it’s likely to be larger and can hold more people at once, especially when factoring in the social distancing requirements likely to be with us for some time.