So you’re buying your first apartment and joining the hundreds of other singles, couples and families around Australia in community living. What do you need to know?
Buying a strata or community title property is different to buying a house.
The first thing to remember is that you’re buying air space.
The bricks and mortar are owned by the collective of owners, which depending on the relevant state laws is referred to as the owners corporation, body corporate, strata company or community association.
We’re going to refer to it as the strata scheme.
As an owner you automatically become part of the strata scheme and have certain rights as well as responsibilities.
Community living means living by a set of rules that make it fair for everyone.
You don’t want to move in with your pet only to find out the building is not pet-friendly. Make sure you get a copy of the by-laws and that there are no rules you could not live by.
Don’t go in thinking you can change minds on Fluffy or Fido moving in as it will probably only end in Tribunals and lawyers.
Before you buy it is recommended that you get a Strata Inspection Report done.
Just as you would with a house, you need to ensure that not only is the wiring and pest control in good order but you should also search the strata scheme records to view the finances and any issues the building may be facing.
A Strata Inspection Report checks the following:
- The books and records of the strata scheme to get a full picture of the state of the building
- Notices served on the strata scheme including any court or tribunal orders
- Minutes of general and executive committee meetings
- Accounting records including income and expenditure records
- The approved budget and levy instalments
- The certificate of title and registered copy of the strata plan
- Up-to-date insurance policies
- Managing agent records (if there is a strata manager)
- Other supplier agreement
Don’t forget to factor in that you will have to pay a levy. This is usually paid quarterly with the monies going into maintenance and upkeep of common areas such as the lobby and garages, gardens, fences and extras such as a pool or gym.
It also covers insurance (which is compulsory for all strata and community title properties), the sinking fund, and administrative costs.
Check the plan
Also check the plan for your apartment to make sure you are getting what you think, for example, is your car space correctly allocated to your apartment? Your lawyer should also take you through the contract to ensure you understand each step of the purchase process.
Take an active interest in what goes on in your building. Attend the annual general meeting so that your voice is heard and consider becoming a member of your building’s executive committee.
And finally, remember that in an apartment building, your neighbour is usually just on the other side of the wall. Live next to them as you would have them live next to you.
Written by Mark Lever. Mark is the founding CEO of Strata Community Australia, the peak body for the strata services sector