Condo Media - March 2013 - (Page 48)

Feature Curb Appeal: Expense and Expectations R eal estate brokers talk a lot about the “curb appeal” of single-family homes. But what about condominium communities? Does the concept apply to them, too? We posed that question to two association managers, who explained how curb appeal translates in a common interest ownership setting, why it is important and what boards can do to improve the curb appeal of their communities without straining their budgets. David Abel, CMCA, Senior Manager First Realty Management, Boston, Mass. Curb appeal begins at the entranceway and extends up the driveway, into the parking areas and into the main lobby, if there is one, Abel says. And it is every bit as important for boards and owners in condominium communities as it is for the owners of single-family homes, he believes. “When we submit a proposal to a prospective client, we look at whether its appearance is ‘crisp’” Abel says, by which he means: Is the paint on the sign peeling, even a little? Are flower 48 Condo Media • March 2013 beds well-tended? Are lawns sharply edged? Is the clubhouse clean? Is there sand in the lobby? Is the furniture shabby? All of those details add to curb appeal or detract from it, he explains, affecting both how prospective buyers view the community and how existing owners feel about it. For prospective buyers of condominium units, first impressions of the community “are crucial,” Abel says. “An owner may have the most beautiful unit in the world,” but if a buyer’s first impression of the community is poor, the owner “may have lost the sale even before he’s opened his front door.” If the community’s appearance is “crisp,” Abel says, “buyers will assume that it is fiscally and physically well-managed.” But if small details are neglected — if the lobby furniture is dusty, if flower beds are overgrown, if lights have burned out — buyers will wonder if bigger details are being neglected as well. Owners will ask the same questions and have the same doubts. If something is wrong — even something fairly minor — “owners will see it every day” and what begins as low-level irritation “can morph into something much worse,” affecting how owners view their community and its management. If the property looks good, owners will “feel good” about it and will be more inclined to support maintenance, repair and replacement projects designed to keep it looking good. “There’s a nice, self-re-enforcing aspect to this,” Abel says. And it works both ways. If the property seems neglected, even in small ways, owners are more likely to resist expenditures. Their attitude will be, “The place looks like crap, so why should I spend more money on it? I can’t sell my unit anyway.” Still, encouraging boards to focus on how their communities look when they are struggling to keep their budgets in check can be challenging, Abel acknowledges. “But that’s a conversation I want to have.” He will counter a board’s “emotional” response — “Let’s save money by cutting back on cleaning” — by plugging in real numbers, pointing out that if you’re spending $7,000 a year on cleaning in an 86-unit community, cutting the budget by a third — going from three days to two — will save about $5.80 per unit, while triggering a rash of complaints from owners about the dust in the lobby and the fingerprints in the elevators. “Do you really want owners yelling at you

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Condo Media - March 2013

Condo Media - March 2013
Contents
From the CED’s Desk
Editorial Board
CAI News
CAI Regional News
Asked & Answered
Homeowner’s Corner
Finance
Maintenance
Pests
Vendor Spotlight
Landscaping
Industry Perspective
Self-Managed Association Boards
2013 CAI-NE Spring/Summer Service Directory
Classified Service Directory
Advertisers Index

Condo Media - March 2013

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