Ask an Expert

Is a new lobby a good investment?

By Virginia K. Smith | June 15, 2015 - 2:59PM

Q: I live in a 72-unit co-op building, and the board is considering a renovation of the lobby and upper hallways. They're consulting with a designer on a new paint scheme, but another option is a complete renovation of the upper halls from walls to ceiling, including new fixtures. Would this kind of renovation bring appreciable or equal value to our apartment, or is there a wiser capital improvement that would bring greater value to our apartments?

A: Giving your building's common areas a facelift will almost certainly have a positive effect on values in your building, but you and your board should plan carefully and manage expectations, say our experts
"The lobby, hallways and common areas are synonymous with 'curb appeal' in the suburbs," says CORE NYC broker Douglas Heddings. "A pristine and aesthetically appealing first impression will absolutely influence a buyer as they make their way to your front door." Indeed, contractor Jeff Streich of Prime Renovations notes that buildings frequently undertake these kinds of upgrades in hopes of boosting value. Unless they're diving into pricier work like adding a gym or roof deck, "Most buildings just do the hallway or lobby," he says. (Unsurprisingly, the kinds of upgrades that will have a significant effect on values, like the addition of a gym, will also cost your board serious cash.)
This in mind, your board needs to do its homework before deciding exactly what, if any, kind of upgrade is right for your building. Given that part of its job is to ensure your building's financial stability, the board should take a careful look at its budget before making any plans, advises Thomas Usztoke of Douglas Elliman Property Management. "Choosing a repainting of public areas is a fraction of the cost of a 100 percent redecorating, including fixtures, of public space and still provides a noticeable improvement while reflecting an emphasis on fiscal management."
While lobbies and common areas do influence a buyer's first impressions of a building, "it doesn't necessarily follow that newly-renovated common areas will automatically increase the market value of an apartment," adds Sotheby's International Realty agent Gordon T. Roberts. "There are great apartments in buildings with bland lobbies and nondescript hallways, and vice versa. It's more important that there is a consistent level of quality in all common areas, preferably sending a message that the building is exceedingly well-maintained."
If you and your board are still on the fence, Roberts recommend chatting up brokers who've recently sold in the building and have up-to-the-minute insight into what buyers are—and aren't—responding to. "Ask what feedback they've been hearing from potential buyers," he says. "Their input might help you decide how to allocate funds."

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