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When it comes to apartment living, we each have our likes and dislikes. Maybe you prefer the ground floor or an upper level? Modern or art deco? A block with 5-star facilities or back to basics? Despite these differences, there are some common factors to consider if you want your apartment to be a great home and an investment that grows in value over time.
1. Strata scheme
How much you pay in strata fees is an important issue, but of equal importance is a well-managed strata scheme.
There will be an owners corporation (body corporate) in charge of your strata scheme, who may have hired a managing agent to look after the property. When you consider that you’ll be paying for the repair and maintenance to public areas like lifts, foyers, driveways and gardens, it’s in your interests to know these decisions are in competent hands.
Here are some questions you might want to ask: have there been disputes between owners and strata management in the past? Does the building have any defects and how are these being addressed? What is the balance of the sinking fund and does it cover the cost of any planned work outlined in the long-term maintenance plan? Is there adequate insurance?
Professional strata reports can be commissioned through your solicitor or direct with a strata inspection specialist. DIY strata reviews are only advisable if you have available time and a head for figures. The owners corporation must make their records available (a fee may be payable), including past minutes, insurance policies, correspondence and financial and accounting statements.
When budgeting for your apartment purchase, keep in mind that strata levies are an extra cost on top of your home loan. For modern developments with swimming pools, gyms and high-tech security, these costs can be significant.
An overrepresentation of similar apartments in the same building or a particular area can make lenders cautious about financing. Take any reluctance by the lender as a warning sign. If lenders are concerned about the resale value of the property, so should you.
Uniqueness is not defined by architecture alone. Factors that differentiate one apartment from another include: views, car parking, extra storage, alfresco space, size of the floorplan, amount of light and the quality of fixtures and fittings. Buying into a structurally sound boutique block might also help your apartment retain its value.
3. Planned developments
Future developments may cause a loss of views, privacy or amenities. Check with the local council as to whether there are any approvals in place or pending, including whether developers have submitted plans for nearby apartment complexes.
On the flipside, an insight into planned developments will give you an idea of the popularity and growth of the suburb in years to come – necessary for the capital growth of your apartment.
Get it right from the start with professional help.
You might be attracted to an apartment for its potential to renovate and add value, but keep in mind your plans will be subject to body corporate approval.
It’s common under strata title that permission must be sought for renovating common property like the walls, windows, flooring and some types of lights. For significant upgrades involving removing internal walls and replacing bathroom tiles, you are likely to be held responsible for any ensuing problems.
Check with your body corporate or strata manager on the by-laws and legislation relevant to the building you’re thinking of buying into.
5. Parking and public transport
Do you have a designated car park that is part of your title? Is this a lock-up space and is there visitors’ parking? Easy access to train and bus stations are a big plus for seller desirability, particularly if there is limited on-street parking.
6. Outlook and privacy
Do you feel comfortable with the outlook and level of privacy from other apartments looking in? Would you prefer the intimacy of a small apartment block where you’re more likely to get to know your neighbours or a high-rise block where there’s more chance of anonymity?
7. Noise insulation
Visit the apartment at different times of the day and night to assess the noise levels in and out of the building. Listen for traffic noise and how easily sound travels. If a young family is living directly above you, for example, how tolerant are you to the loud thuds of active children?
Party noise is a problem that can be difficult to anticipate. Finding out how many apartments in the building are open to Airbnb rental can provide some level of warning.
Along with apartment hunting comes the hunt for a suitable home loan. Contact your local Yellow Brick Road representative to help sort out all your home and property finance needs.