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Turn a Manhattan terrace into more dollars per square foot

Thousands of New Yorkers are living in homes roughly 70 square feet bigger than they thought — and they do nothing with that extra space.

With the average apartment price in Manhattan hitting $1,185 psf in the first quarter of this year, according to Halstead, that’s a lot of cash to overlook if you are in the market for sale.

That unaccounted for space is the balcony — on average 6 ft. by 11 ft. in Manhattan, according to Miller Samuel Inc. — that most folk use for extra storage or as a graveyard for dead house plants.

But a little bit of TLC and some serious thought can be the difference between hanging a “sold” sign or languishing on the market, according to some of the city’s top staging experts.

“It definitely helps close the deal,” said Barbara Brock, principal of Sold with Style, who just worked her magic on two city apartments that had been for sale for months with no takers.

Brock and her team transformed a 10 ft. by 4 ft. glass-enclosed balcony overlooking the Hudson from a dingy den with an old television, Melamine bookcase and withered plants where no-one wanted to go, into a cozy, extra room everyone wants to use.

“We used furniture the client had and put in a lounge chair, a club chair, some plants and some artwork and it became another, usable room,” said Brock.

“The broker said it definitely helped close the deal.”

The second, smaller balcony was used by the owners to store all the things they wanted kept out of reach of their toddler.

After clearing everything from the space and giving it a good clean down, Brock said a simple table and chair with a pillow “totally changed the space.” She explained, “Space in New York is of such a premium, you always want to give potential buyers the perception that they can go out there and utilize that terrace or balcony, regardless of the size.”

Celebrity interior designer and home stager, Cathy Hobbs, owner of Cathy Hobbs Design Recipes and a finalist on Season 6 of HGTV Design Star, agreed. “In a city like New York, space is a premium both inside and out,” she said.

Hobbs recalled moving to New York City in the spring of 1997, in the midst of an extremely tight rental market, and the real estate agent telling her that, in the winter, everyone wants a fireplace. The rest of the year, everyone is looking for outdoor space.

“Whether you have a balcony or wrap around terrace, I believe what everyone is looking for is relaxation, spaciousness and views,“ said Hobbs. “The key in creating the ideal outdoor retreat is to make sure that you select pieces that will essentially expand or extend your outdoor living space.”

Cheryl Eisen, president of IMG Interior Marketing Group, said there is no doubt the extra effort will earn a return on investment.

“Any space in Manhattan is sold at a premium, and if you can show you can use the space, people will pay for as much real functionality as you can show.

“It is one of my favorite things to do, because most people don’t know how to stage a little terrace. But even if all you have time for is a round table with a bowl of lemons, it still shows functionaility, no matter how small, and that will always sell.

“By putting something on the balcony, you expand the depth of the room, give the perception that the balcony is part of the home and by doing that, its going to draw the eye.ˮ

According to Brock, most house hunters have no “spacial relation,ˮ which basically means that, when faced with an empty space, they have no perception of where to put things or how to use it.

She explained, “When a buyer looks at a vacant space, one of three things happen; they go out and then immediately walk back in; they go out and say they have too much furniture to fit; or they go out and say they don’t know what they would put there.

“With terraces, if you don’t have anything to grab them, they won’t linger long — and as a broker said to me, if a buyer sits down, an apartment is virtually sold.ˮ

Making a buyer want to sit down and stay a while needn’t cost the earth.

Laurie Gorelick, of Laurie Gorelick Interiors, said, “There are inexpensive, bistro-type sets of tables and chairs that can easily found on websites like OverStock.com or Wayfair, that can create a little niche for dining or reading.

“And it can be spruced up with indoor / outdoor fabric, and pillows to add color and softness. You want to make it look like a desirable location to hang out in. Adding different types of greenery will make it look alive, sunny and habitable.

“Most importantly, it extends the living area of the dwelling so, in the first instance where the balcony is empty, it doesn’t increase the footprint of the apartment. In the second instance, seeing additional living space shows you are getting more for your money.ˮ

Kim Depole, a designer who has been featured on a trio of Oprah apartment staging segments, has seen some new trends in balcony design develop.

“Right now, everyone is making outdoor dining spaces, making their patio work like an outdoor dining room. And they employ themes — like a Japanese-inspired garden, or Polynesian. Another thing that’s popular right now are fire elements, although New York City fire regulations prohibit charcoal, electric or gas grills or fires on most apartment building balconies.ˮ

Depole’s company, Kim Depole Design has crafted both residential and commercial spaces across the country, from “tween roomsˮ to model apartments. The firm is currently working on amenity spaces at The Gateway new development in the Financial District, SJP Properties’ newest rental, the 800-unit Modern in Fort Lee and is also developing a “creativity labˮ with Simon and Schuster publishing.

But when she’s not turning her hand to expanding other people’s spaces, Depole has turned her own 200 s/f patio into an extra room.

“I have a huge, oversized Buddhist statue, a big red umbrella, bamboo screens and a table and chairs, and what was a barren space in now a dining room,ˮ said Depole.

“But even if all you have is a window box, plant it. If you want privacy, buy a large bamboo plant which will grow quickly and is very low maintenance. It’s also nice to do a little herb garden, and hanging strawberries can be beautiful, too.ˮ

In a city where all to often the view is the building next door, Sold With Style’s Brock believes anyone can create their own little urban oasis

“When you step outside, you want to think about putting some type of barrier that makes the space cozy and makes you think you are secluded and it’s just yours. A bar-height stool and table gives the idea that you can sit their with your cocktail and relax — it’s all about perception.

“When people look out at a balcony, they want to think of calm and relaxing, and what says that better than a lounge chair, side table and a Margarita cocktail.

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