Think about it, all real estate properties, regardless of whether they function as a residential, commercial, or retail space, are virtually the same. Essentially, at the most basic level, they are all just buildings: little more than simply walls, floors, and a roof. Aside from function, what really differentiates one from the others is one of the most powerful tools in real estate business, and it also happens to be today’s word – amenity.
Originating from the Latin amoenitatem, meaning ‘delightfulness or pleasantness,’ our word is simply defined as the quality of being pleasant or agreeable.
In real estate terms, an amenity (or, the plural, amenities) is any aspect of a property that can be seen as beneficial and potentially increase the property’s value.
Looking at any location, an amenity can be something as physical as a swimming pool, a guest room, or a parking space; proximity to parks and restaurants, or factors such as the area having a low crime rate or nearby public transit access.
Naturally, we all want as many amenities as we can get. However, the problem lies in knowing the limitations of amenities. From the perspective of the potential property buyer, it will always be a question of what amenities can be afforded and which amenities they are willing to sacrifice – even something as simple as having mature trees on the property can potentially increase the property’s value by 3-5% or more.
Conversely, from the perspective of the property developer/seller, it is a question of what amenities can be offered and whether they are worth the money: for example, some kitchen and bathroom remodels can offer a profitable return on investment when added to the overall property value; however, the added value of a sun-room addition or home office remodel often has trouble breaking 50% of the money invested in the project.
First appearing in the mid-1400s in an anonymously translated version of Ranulf Higden’s Polychronicon, stating that: “That place had also amenity”, our word originally applied to the benefit of a place, such as climate, good soil, hunting ground, etc.
One of the first modern interpretations of the word can be found in the February 8th, 1929 issue of the weekly Oxford Times, which, noting a land transaction, states that: “The payment of £88 for the purchase of the land; the payment of £250 as compensation for the loss of amenities and disturbance of existing garden and grounds.”
Through these 2 usages as well as the experiences of anyone who has ever dealt with real estate, it is easy to see that, as important as the structure is, it is the amenities that make the property attractive.