Anyone familiar with London will know that many of its most desirable locations are known, informally, at least, as “villages”, Hampstead Village, Belsize Village, Highgate Village, then there’s Kentish Town and Camden Town. What these areas have in common is a strong sense of community and while community spirit is something money can’t buy, it’s also something which is extremely attractive to modern home buyers (and renters).
Community and the different stages of life
We start out life as young children and in our earliest years our community is usually, quite simply, the people around us, people who will be known, in some way, to our parents. As we grow into young adults, we start to develop our own communities, both physically and digitally and when we leave the parental nest, peer-based communities can provide an invaluable support network.
When the time comes for young adults to start their own families, the feeling of being part of a community can not only provide moral support, but also practical help (babysitting) and safety. Ultimately, the children grow up and fly the nest and their empty-nester parents may put the resulting free time to good use by becoming more active in their community and may also derive a lot of comfort from the feeling that their community will be there for them if they need it in their later years.
Community and investment strategy
Estate agents have long since learned the value of staging homes so that viewers can imagine the property as their own. The best properties are not just places people feel that they could live, they are places people actively want to live. These are the ones which command the highest price premiums.
Creating a desirable home involves managing both the tangible and the intangible. Certainly, both developers and landlords have to continue to pay attention to basics such as the size of the property and the quality of its interior and exterior, but increasingly both buyers and tenants are looking for extra value, often in the form of communal services and facilities and many are placing the highest possible value on the feeling of community itself. While true community can’t be manufactured, it can certainly be given a helping hand and included as part of an investment strategy.
Investing in community
One of the great advantages of property investment is that there is a huge range of options available to investors so in practical terms, the idea of “investing in community” will mean different things to different investors. For example, those interested in direct investment, such as buy-to-let might prioritise areas where there is known to be a good community spirit (active neighbourhood associations are often a good indicator of this). Property developers could (and should) look at the local area, but might also aim to incorporate more communal facilities into their developments instead of fitting in as many residential units as possible. Those interested in indirect investment could focus on investments with “in-built” community, such as student accommodation and care homes or simply incorporate the idea of a need for community into their assessment of the value of an investment.