Can street art increase the value of your home? The anecdotal answer, based on many English properties selling for up to double their regular prices thanks to the Banksy murals painted on them, is yes. But now a study has been done to determine what, if any, effect street art—and art in general—has on the property values of entire neighborhoods.
The work, led by University of Warwick postgrad Chanuki Seresinhe, used data from photographs tagged on Flickr to measure the amount of street art in London neighborhoods and compared it to the changes in residential property prices of the same neighborhoods. Because Flickr’s photos can include GPS coordinates, along with the date the photo was taken, this is a pretty good way to see changes over time. In this case, the timescale is 2004-2013.
The flakiest part of the study was the reliance on the tag "art" to filter for photos containing street art, although it’s hard to think of a better method. Importantly, Seresinhe’s study looked at all instances of art in a neighborhood, not only graffiti. The purpose of the study was to find out whether creative work inn general is a factor in transforming poor urban neighborhoods. "Researchers of urban policy maintain that the creative industries are key to building a successful city economy," writes Seresinhe. "Governments around the world make significant investments in the arts in order to incentivize gentrification and regeneration in specific neighborhoods."
But does it work?
Yes, says Seresinhe’s study. "A comparison of the relative change of mean residential property price and the proportion of ‘art’ images suggests that the higher the proportion of ‘art’ images, the greater the relative gain in house price."
One test of the method’s accuracy is that it works for areas in London already associated with artistic endeavor, like Shoreditch and Dalston, both in East London. These two districts, "exhibit particularly high proportions of ‘art’-related photographs, as well as high relative gains in house prices," writes Seresinhe. Anyone who has watched the gentrification of these areas since the beginning of the century will recognize this as something of an understatement.
It’s not just art in general that is associated with a boost in property prices. If you’re lucky enough to have Banksy stencil a painting on the wall of your home, you’re in for a windfall, unless the local council cleans it off first. In 2008, a Banksy picture of a rat doubled the price of a derelict pub in Liverpool, England. In 2012, a Banksy mural was stolen, wall and all, from a dime store in London, and appeared for sale on a U.S.-based auction site for a half a million dollars.
In these cases, (and there are many), the paintings are usually ripped from the building they’re painted on, often with the cost of the replacement wall assumed by the buyer as a part of the sale. There is some irony in how neatly this mirrors the gentrification of a cheap neighborhood that has been colonized by artists.
Seresinhe herself points out that a correlation between art and house prices doesn’t necessarily imply that one causes the other, but taken with the anecdotal evidence that artists really do lead the gentrification process, it seems clear that governments should invest in artistic programs in deprived neighborhoods if they want to stimulate the economy.
Then again, if rising property prices are the result, and the poorer residents are pushed out because they can no longer afford to live there, perhaps the biggest beneficiaries of community arts programs would be property investors.