Personal dialogue is always well received
For Christoph Müller, President of the Board of Directors, and Daniel Selebam, Project Manager Real Estate Management, the subject of community is unavoidable in their work. In this interview, they talk about the role of communication, possible conflicts and different forms of communities and neighbourhoods.
How does Alfred Müller AG foster a good sense of community in new properties or buildings?
Christoph Müller: Before the start of construction, the neighbours are notified of possible emissions through a so-called neighbourhood information letter. In my position as President of the Board of Directors as well as being the owner, it is important that it is signed by me personally. Depending on the situation, we may also visit the neighbours and speak to them in person. Communication is very important for us. Therefore we try to establish a relationship of trust with the neighbours from the very beginning.
Daniel Selebam: If we're building commonhold flats, we invite the owners to an orientation meeting after they move in, even if management normally doesn't do this until after a year. This provides an opportunity for all parties to become better acquainted and for unanswered questions to be resolved.
What effects do positive neighbour relationships have on a property's valuation and reputation?
Daniel Selebam: If a property or a building project has a good reputation, that will have a positive influence on its valuation. A property's neighbours can play just as important a role in its reputation as objective advantages such as the floor plan or location. A property's good image arises mostly through word of mouth, which in turn has a positive effect on the neighbourhood.
Christoph Müller: A good sense of community can, theoretically, have a positive effect on the sale of a property. I also know cases where owners wanted to sell as quickly as possible because of differences with the neighbours, which brought the sale price down. But the opposite can apply as well: a building's good image can have a positive effect on the demand and sale price. In the traditional sense, however, the neighbours have a minimal impact on the valuation of a property. It's more of an emotional value.
Have there been times when Alfred Müller AG had to mediate between neighbours?
Daniel Selebam: Yes, for example if people stay outside on warm summer nights and the noise disturbs their neighbours. We encourage people to speak to each other directly and solve their problems amongst themselves. Too little of that is done today.
Christoph Müller: I agree. It's much more effective when an issue is explained in person without the management getting involved.
"We encourage people to speak to each other directly and solve their problems amongst themselves."
What differences are there between a community's tenants and its commonhold owners?
Daniel Selebam: Commonhold owners meet once a year and decide as a group on issues pertaining to the entire property and thus to all residents. Knowing and discussing the respective issues creates proximity. The tenants don't have to do that.
Christoph Müller: Because it is their property, a commonhold owner tends to establish relationships with the community and have more interest in local issues. Knowledge about one's neighbours is more important for an owner than it is for a tenant. It is important for owners to know their neighbours personally. We find that tenants in properties of seven or more units prefer to remain anonymous.
Do you choose tenants or owners according to special criteria to achieve peaceful coexistence?
Christoph Müller: Our sales agents don't work on commission. The advantage of this is that we can carefully select tenants and buyers and that frees us from being pressured to close a deal as soon as possible. Of course our room for manoeuvre is dictated by demand, and this allows sometimes more, and sometimes less, flexibility. When selling flats, we pay more attention to whether the chemistry is right. Fortunately, I can always rely on my agents' assessments in this regard. They have many years of valuable experience and they are good judges of people.
Daniel Selebam: It is always optimal if the new residents are a good fit for the existing ones. This may be a criterion in whom it is given to, because under certain conditions it can help to normalise tense relations in the neighbourhood. We also assess whether the desired flat is appropriate for the size of the household. So, for example, we may look for a family with children or, conversely, a couple if we want to keep the noise levels down. Naturally, we can only consider such issues with regard to our own properties. With third-party clients, the owner specifies which criteria the new tenant must meet.
"Knowledge about one's neighbours is more important for owners than it is for tenants. It is important for owners to know their neighbours personally."
Is it still a good idea for new neighbours to introduce themselves personally?
Christoph Müller: Absolutely! I have always had positive experiences and I've never been chased away (laughs). I think that making contact, whether in person or in writing, is well received and establishes trust. There is currently some landscaping work being done at my home, so I sent my neighbours a letter in advance, or stopped by to speak with them in person. They were very appreciative of the gesture.
What's your personal take on the neighbourhood?
Daniel Selebam: We manage a very pleasant community. People interact, and yet everyone gives everyone else a certain amount of space. This works for all concerned.
Christoph Müller: We know and greet one another, sometimes we might stop for a short conversation. I personally find it important that one maintains a relationship with one's neighbours, because neighbours can be more effective than an alarm system. In my opinion, it is good to know a neighbour's mobile phone number so that they can be notified in the event of water damage or a break-in.