By Jo Eccles
First impressions are hugely important when it comes to selling a property. If you’re selling a flat, don’t underestimate the importance of communal areas; this will be the exterior of the building, the front garden or the walkway, as well as the communal space inside.
I have done many viewings with clients over the years where we’ve seen the most spectacular flats, but where the building itself has let down the whole experience, and the buyers just can’t get over it. For instance, a while ago I showed a client two almost identical properties. One was in an immaculate building, the other very rundown. The flat in the immaculate building wasn’t quite as good as the flat in the rundown building, nevertheless, the client got a better vibe from the latter.
When the building is very tidy and smart, you instantly get the feeling that other residents care about their homes and the building just as much as you would. It can also give confidence that the building is well-run. However, if the communal areas are rundown, shabby and cluttered with neighbours’ belongings (shoes, bikes, prams, garish artwork and so on!), once inside, buyers tend to be much less receptive to the flat.
If you are considering buying a property which isn’t in a faultless building, there are things you can do. Many buildings have a residents’ association which you can get involved in, or alternatively you can play an active part in communicating with the neighbours by getting everyone to come together and make improvements. If you don’t yet own the property, try to get comfort that the other residents are keen to improve the building, and that they have the financial means to do so. I’ve seen flats on the most expensive square in London, which had very rundown communal areas. Most of the residents had lived there for a long time and whilst they were asset rich, they were cash poor and didn’t have the resources to invest in the common parts.
If that’s the case, sometimes you can go it alone. We bought one of our clients a gorgeous flat which she fully refurbished throughout. As her builders were already in the property each day, she paid them extra to re-paint and re-carpet the communal areas and she bought some neutral light shades to replace the tatty ones already there. The entire building was transformed and it was a huge positive when she eventually sold. She more than made back the cost of doing up the communal areas herself, and it was one of the best uses of her refurbishment budget.
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