Back in 2014, the local council in Clacton destroyed a mural by the street artist Banksy. Amidst all the public outcry about the desecration of art were many who pointed out that the council had looked a gift horse in the mouth by destroying what was a highly valuable piece of art.
Others have not been so short sighted. In 2007 one couple in Bristol used an early piece of Banksy artwork which had appeared on the side of their house to boost its value. When some potential buyers insisted the art should be removed, they adopted a different approach. They sold the painting with the house attached, reasoning that the art itself was more valuable than the house.
Since then, of course, Banksy and street art, in general, have flourished, and more and more property owners are asking themselves the same question: will a piece of street art from a famous artist, increase the value of property in an area?
For example, when a Georgian building opposite St Pancras Station became the subject of London’s largest ever mural painting in 2012, it boosted the entire area. The Megaro Project by Agents of Change helped to establish the area on the cultural map and increased the value of property in the area.
Research from the Affordable Art Fair, suggested 80% of people agree that an attractive mural contributes to a positive community atmosphere. Areas with colourful street art, the research suggests, could add anything up to £50,000 to the value of local property.
Other research from eMoob.co.uk suggests the same thing with people willing to pay between 5% and 30% of the property’s value to move into an area near a Banksy.
Bristol and Shoreditch, meanwhile, have both become regarded as street art capitals and have seen property prices rise as a result.
However, this is not an exact science. Art is subjective and, as some people have found, selling a property with a piece of artwork may not delight every buyer. At times it could actively put them off.
Another explanation could be down to the link between street art and gentrification. While the image of street art is something which draws very much on ideas of rebellion and subversion, the truth is that it has often been used as a tool of gentrification.
In a competitive property market, local authorities need to find ways to make their area stand apart from the rest. Giving a well-known artist permission to create a sizeable eye-catching mural is one way to do it.
Although the local authorities in Clacton appear to have been slow on the uptake, many others are actively commissioning artists to transform the look, appeal and value of an area. By doing so, they are looking to entice their most sought-after demographic, creative, bohemian and affluent people, to push up prices and boost the reputation of their area.
So, what started as an edgy, transgressive, and almost revolutionary idea, therefore, has to a certain degree sold out. It has become a tool for councils and corporations to make their properties more attractive to the kind of high income, fashionable and cool buyers they are looking to attract. For this reason alone, the sight of street art popping up in an area could be a sign that prices are likely to rise.