We love interior improvements. But if you can’t get people to come to your condo or homeowner association to actually look at any units, these wonderful interior features aren’t going to move the needle when it comes to property values and rental rates.
Furthermore, if you don’t take control of your property’s curbside appearance, you may well fail to attract the best quality owners and renters.
When you’re determined to improve property values throughout your condo or homeowner association by enhancing curb appeal, here are some principles to keep in mind.
1. Get the driver’s eye view of the property. Look at the property from the street, ideally with someone else who is looking at the property for the first time. Someone new to the property may notice flaws that you have grown accustomed to. Be hypercritical. Are you truly putting your best foot forward? Attention to detail is important.
2. Assert control. If previous boards have been lax about enforcing standards, your association could have any number of issues. Your first step is to take back the association from those whose actions are dragging property values down – as well as the fortunes of the entire organization.
This is going to require a mixture of tact and determination. As a board member, you must look out for the interests of the membership as a whole. Anything less would be a breach of fiduciary duty. So you’re going to have to enforce the CC&Rs against some individuals – and be willing to risk upsetting them – in order to protect the association’s interest.
3. Develop a coherent and enforceable architectural policy. Most associations have at least the basics. Can yours be improved without undue disruption? It may be that previous boards didn’t give you the appropriate CC&Rs and other documents that you need to protect your property from neglectful residents. Take an inventory of what powers you need in order to meaningfully increase curb appeal and control negative behavior from residents. Do you need stronger parking or vehicle provisions? Flags and signage?
4. Get buy-in. To make a big impact, you need to bring some people with you. It’s better for residents to be pulling a condo or homeowner association board along rather than the other way round. Volunteerism is powerful. One excellent way to get buy-in is to form one or more committees composed of association members. For example, create a landscaping committee of residents to advise the association board on relevant measures and to help with execution of the plans the board approves.
5. Spruce up the gardening and landscaping. This is pretty easy to do – once. But if you don’t plan ahead, you can get yourself into trouble. Some beautification projects require ongoing maintenance, and you have to budget for that. Seasonal flowers aren’t free, and they have to be replanted. Some plants require more watering than others, which is a problem in drought-stricken areas and deserts. And water isn’t free, either. Look for plants that survive with native rainfall or are relatively hardy.
You may need to resource a gray-water capture and recycling system. This is a significant short-term expenditure, but it may make sense over the long term.
Whatever you choose to do, follow through and maintain it well. If you skimp on the visible things, prospective buyers and tenants will wonder what else you’ve been failing to maintain. If they consider your property at all.
6. Pressure-wash regularly. Clean off walls, concrete areas, and trim and signage. Make sure you use the appropriate detergents for the surfaces. And work it into the maintenance schedule.
7. Resurface or repaint parking lots. Retarring and repainting can go a long way to making an older property look new again. If you can’t resurface, at least restripe.
8. Consider your grassy areas. Yes, we all love lawns. But if you can’t maintain it because of water restrictions, maybe it’s time for a change. Alternative uses for grassy areas include additional parking or units, tennis courts, storage areas/garages, basketball courts, or an indoor recreation room or pavilion. If there are noticeable trails in the grass, indicating traffic areas, put in walkways.
9. Add lighting. How does your place look at night? Good, warm lighting is essential. First, it deters crime and makes the property safer for residents. Second, light sells. Consider using rope lighting to add definition or draw the eye to attractive features. If you have a flagpole, light up the flag. Aim for warm, inviting and safe.
10. Clean obsessively. Be especially aggressive with your cleaning and maintenance efforts near trash collection points and compactors, around the leasing office, and anywhere workers take breaks. Staff extra people the day before trash day and that morning, because that’s when you have more trash piling up. If it’s a problem every week, maybe you need to pay for more trash pickups.
11. Pay attention to color. Pick a color scheme and stick to it. But make sure the contrast pops. That includes the contrast between flowers and surrounding vegetation and the contrast between trim and walls. Take advantage of color theory and trend research and let it work for you.
12. Check address and building numbering. Pretend you’ve never been there before. Are the building numbers clear and visible both day and night?
13. Festoon. Consider inexpensive enhancements like birdfeeders, birdbaths, mailbox stands, pots and planters, and fire pits.