Property Management: Exterior Upgrades that Create Value

Exterior Upgrades – Bringing Cost Conscience “Freshness”

In your market, the competition never sleeps.  Assume this posture in apartment marketing and urgency gets to be real.   You are competing specifically against every multifamily property of similar age, condition, and price point.   In the multifamily business, there is a new opportunity to make a first impression every day.  Every year there are dozens of new products with hundreds of exterior uses.   Find one or two that work for your specific multifamily property.   Do not do what you cannot afford.    Here are just a few examples of low-cost exterior upgrades:

First and foremost; cleanliness. It seems so simple, but this one category is an on-going aspect of running a quality multifamily property.   Common areas, parking lots, and windows should not detract from the experience of coming to or living on your property.   Consider as a general rule of thumb; one man-hour of labor weekly for every ten units for general pick up and presentation (excluding normal landscaping upkeep).  Cleanliness includes paying attention to trash bins, windows, parking lot, elevators, weed control, common area maintenance, steps, and laundry facilities.

Quality Paint and creating contrast.  While fresh paint is good, some color contrast with fresh paint is better.  Be consistent with the color scheme and finish.  Unless you are attempting to create an art deco look, earth tones and soft pastels work best.  For product, stick with one name brand.  This assists greatly with maintaining color match and quality level.  Professional painters have strong preferences on where to use glossy, semi-gloss, and flat.  Consult your local professional.

Security Lighting.  Many municipalities (not all) will provide additional street lights based on a written request from a property owner.  Certainly, an assessment will be made as to the need, but for older property where street lights may be antiquated or under-serving the area there is no harm in asking.   The same may be true for parking lots that, based on age, may not have any lighting.  Under the guise of public safely a municipality may add street lights increasing night-time safety.   We have one property where the city added six pole lights on the property.  Our costs were zero for the install and we pay approximately $60 a month for electricity to power these lights.  The impact on the property was immediate and dramatic in terms of the increase “feel” of security.

Re-numbering/Re-striping parking lot.  Parking re-numbering costs less than $10 per parking space.  Hire service for the professional finish (this is not a maintenance staff job- hire a pro).  The value-added here is removing confusion.  Re-striping adds to the safety and can bring a big dose of gratitude for the ability to have good guides into parking.   It’s like getting a drink in the drive-thru; you don’t have to have a straw, but not having one is noticeable.

Sealing parking lot.  Yes, this is a capital expenditure item.  No, it’s not really low cost.  Whereby it may not be low-cost, it is compared to parking lot replacement.   Depending on the market, costs can range from 10-20 cents per square foot for a professional contractor to re-seal.   Weigh the longevity value against costs.  The upgrade will be noticeable to all and add a “pop” value in terms of newness.   Cost/benefit can be somewhat difficult to measure.  Consider though that New York City just filled its’ two-millionth pothole under Mayor Bloomberg.  People notice.  People don’t really want to drive home every night into or through a hazard zone.  (P.s. Under “stupid pet tricks; do not re-number/re-stripe and then re-seal.  Re-seal first!).

Landscaping.  Seeds.  Seeds are cheap.  Grass seeds, seasonal flowers, bulbs with reoccurring annual growth.  Spend a little on seeds and each year they will pay dividends in terms of curb appeal and property consistency.   Secondly, it’s one thing to push the envelope to reduce cost on grass cuts, but before your customers begin to feel as if they are residing in the prairie lands eliminate the issue and add one additional cut per month.  Consistently counts.  That’s what your customers want most.

Pool and Pool furniture.  A swimming pool is an integral part of your multifamily property.  After addressing safety first,  make it usable.  Make it part of the experience.  If it’s just an eye-sore, better to fill it in and be done with it.  Like ice in a beverage, the water should always be clear.  Any and all pool furniture should be usable or removed.   Umbrella’s, while a nuisance, are a plus.  Purchase inexpensive umbrellas (but structurally sound umbrellas) as they tend to wear poorly and have a short shelf life regardless of quality.

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