Friday, September 16, 2011

Combining Apartments - Joining Forces to Increase Value

A recent article in the New York Times real estate section titled "Combine and Conquer: Your Place and Mine" (link) explains a growing trend in NYC real estate about combining two apartments into one to increase the value of both properties.

This strategy has its roots in the fact that professionals in NYC (and assumedly other large urban areas) are choosing to raise their families in the same cities they currently reside in.

These families are taking advantage of the current real estate market conditions to consolidate smaller apartments into larger spaces. This benefits the seller(s) because larger apartments are worth more on a square footage basis. It also benefits the buyer because they can purchase residential space at a competitive price while making their own decisions on how that space is laid out and designed.

As an example of this, let's look at project currently being designed on the UWS of Manhattan. The clients have acquired two 1 bedroom apartments in a pre-war building with exterior exposure to the north. The existing plan is as shown below:

Demo Plan - [click for larger]

This Demolition Plan shows the existing conditions of the two one bed room apartments being combined. The project requires relocating certain services (including building intercom and electrical risers) in the center wall to allow for a more open plan emphasizing the exposed brick walls to the north and south.

The resulting proposed plan is this:

Proposed Plan - [click for larger]

This revised plan takes two apartments that are basic one bedroom, one bathroom apartments and combined them to a well apportioned three bedroom, 3 bathroom apartment with an open kitchen/living design that allows for a fully integrated great room. The former kitchen becomes an 'urban flex room' that serves the multiple functions of pantry, media storage, and flex office.

Looking at the Reflected Ceiling Plan:

Reflected Ceiling Plan - [click for larger]
This shows clearstory glazing between the pantry and great room (admittedly a wonderful impulse from the client) as well as wall wash lighting at the existing brick wall to the south and an efficient HVAC ducting path that allows for attractive higher ceilings in the great room.

So with a relatively straight forward renovation the clients have both maximized their investment and gained the home they desired. The current real estate market allows for real value in purchasing and renovating, and it's a great time to take advantage.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Methods of Leasing Space in a Down Economy

One thing that is readily apparent in this stubbornly down economy is that the competition to lease available space in a buyer's market is fierce. Taking a walk through any commercial district will display an abundance of 'for lease' signs. This is the troubling realty for all professionals in the real estate and allied construction professions. And with job numbers and local business investment stagnant, this trend unfortunately shows little sign of reversing in the near future. 

So the question becomes, as in any highly competitive market, how do I make my space as attractive as possible for lease? Why should the commercial or retail investor choose my space out of the thousands of square feet in leasable space available in my market?

One simple way to make your space standout is to provide your potential clients with accurate existing conditions drawings in PDF form. This allows your potential leasee to determine quickly and confidently that the space is adequate for the desired use. 

Another method of casting your space in a positive light is to conduct your leasee walkthroughs with a design professional who can explain the potential of the space to the leasee. Often the leasee will appreciate hearing the pros and cons of the space from someone who can help execute their vision.

A final method is to spend a few hours working out some feasibility test fits showing how your space can be efficiently utilized. While this will take a small investment in time and money, this is solid way to show an oddly shaped or proportioned space.

Using some of these techniques will help give your space a fighting chance to be leased by a successful tenant, ensuring a positive experience for all parties.