Six ways you can make small-scale property development projects stand out

They say small is beautiful, but perhaps small is realistic might be more accurate when it comes to homebuyers looking to take that first step onto the housing ladder.

As a developer, catering for this segment of the market can be an attractive proposition. But there are others with similar ideas. How do you give your beautiful new flats the best chance of standing out, and what will make a buyer opt for one of your properties rather than the others on offer? 

Here are six ideas, but you need to work them into your early-stage planning.

1) Install premium appliances

Top-of-the-range washing machines are all very nice, but what about the budget? Well, here’s where branding can work in your favour. Of course, premium brands such as Bosch, Neff, AEG, and Siemens cost more, and they’re not what most people would expect to find in basic flats.

Yet all of these brands offer entry-level models that, while light on features, are heavy on brand cachet and don’t cost a great deal more. Your customers will notice the brand, not the model, and it can help lift the perceived quality of the entire home.

2) Maximise lighting quality

You should take time to work with your design team on maximising the amount of light you’re getting into your units. It’s not just natural light you need to worry about; a few strategically placed downlighters can make a real difference.

That said, don’t spend money unnecessarily: I recall one developer who blew a small fortune on sophisticated mood lighting, forgetting that viewings would be happening in daylight hours.

3) Maximise storage space

Cat swinging is not something that happens much in smaller flats and houses, where storage space also comes at a premium. In particular, larger items like vacuum cleaners and suitcases struggle to find a home and so tend to lie around, cluttering up the place.

Thinking about storage space at the earliest design stage can pay dividends since it can both add value and differentiate you from others on the market. Even the smallest spaces can be used for storage, so don’t feel embarrassed about creating a small or narrow cupboard: it will still be useful. 

4) Make the most of heritage features

One aspect of converting a commercial property to residential is that you’re likely to inherit a few design features from the host building, often unavoidably so. But rather than being a negative, it’s possible to turn these into ‘heritage’ features that add character. 

Think of the New York loft apartments or the old Thameside warehouses in central London. Not so many decades ago, these would have been perceived as about as far from des res as you could get. Today they command a premium, partly because of their location but also because of their character. So, make a point of retaining and celebrating the quirks and features of your building, and it will stand out from the more run-of-the-mill competition in purpose-built blocks.

5) Install bigger shower cubicles 

Small homes usually come with small rooms, and bathrooms are no exception. Yet we all know how uncomfortable it is when you’re trying to take a shower in a cubicle that’s barely big enough to turn around in. Instead, make a point of going large on the shower front so that its size is immediately noticeable when you walk into the room.

Naturally, this will mean pinching space from somewhere else. Still, it’s unlikely to be a colossal compromise – even a large shower doesn’t take up a vast amount of space. But I guarantee you it’s something that people will notice, and it can make a difference to a home’s saleability.

6) Go for quality splashbacks

We always install deeper than usual splashbacks in our kitchens, as not only do they look better, they’re also more practical. Another item we include is a frosted glass splashback behind the hob, as this adds a quality touch without costing a fortune.

These are simple ideas but remember to consider these things at the design stage so you can incorporate them from the outset.

Ritchie Clapson CEng MIStructE is a veteran property developer of almost 40 years and co-founder of propertyCEO, a nationwide property development and training company that helps people create a successful property development business in their spare time. 

propertyCEO makes use of students’ existing life skills while teaching them the property, business, and mindset knowledge they need to undertake small scale developments successfully, with the emphasis on utilising existing permitted development rights to minimize risk and maximize returns.

Photo by Philipp Berndt