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 suggest 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 just a few 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 last 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 generally can’t 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 several projects in New Jersey. “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 on 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 carve out outdoor space. First and foremost, there’s the roof. While an expensive and sometimes technically difficult undertaking, roof decks provide residents with what might be the best option in denser, more urban areas where ground-level space is sometimes just nonexistent. There’s also likely to be more direct sunlight for longer periods of the day on a rooftop than in a courtyard or alley at ground level, and it’s likely to be a larger space that can accommodate more people at once, especially when factoring in the social distancing guidance that is likely to be with us for some time.