Metro - 25 October 2012
By Jo Eccles
I was recently contacted by a Metro reader whose communal areas were completely run down and this was really hampering the sale of her flat, so she wanted advice from a buyer’s perspective. Buyers can be quickly put off if communal areas are unkempt – they really do set the tone for the building.
So, if you’re selling a flat, it’s a good idea to get your communal areas in shape beforehand. Ask your neighbours to keep the communal hallways clear – bikes, prams, rubbish, and heaps of mail can really deter buyers. If the issues aren’t resolved, try to arrange a meeting with them (or write to them if that isn’t possible), as they may respond more positively to a fellow lessee than to a managing agent. You could explain that improved communal areas will lead to higher rents, which may motivate other lessees to take an interest, but remember that if your neighbours are all tenants, it’s unlikely they will have as much vested interest in the condition of the building as you.
If there isn’t any uptake, one option is to improve the communal areas yourself. Although this may be a financial hit initially, you often recoup this several times over when you sell – even something as simple as buying light fixtures for the communal hallway can make a difference and will look a lot better than reusing the old ones.
From a buyer’s perspective, communal areas should never be underestimated in what they can disclose about a building, how it’s run and what the neighbours are like. Look at notice boards if there are any – are there any signs of neighbour disputes or people not closing the door properly or taking out the rubbish? It can be a good insight into any problems.
If you do get the sense that a block of flats is badly run, you can ask the estate agent specific questions before you make an offer. If they say that the communal areas are due to be upgraded, always ask if this has already been budgeted for. Include this in your offer, for example: “I offer £xx for this property and understand that the communal areas are due to be refurbished within 12 months, and the cost has already been paid for by the existing owner.” Therefore, if it doesn’t transpire to be the case when your solicitor starts the formal buying process, it will be much easier to renegotiate on this basis. If you do purchase, I suggest getting involved on the residents’ committee so you can have a say and input into how the building is run and your communal areas, which will help with the eventual future sale of your property.