As the lure of Australia’s capital cities increases and the population rises, more and more Australian residents are choosing to call apartments and strata title properties home
Offering convenience and amenity, strata title properties are often a more affordable way to embrace the property market than detached housing, especially in major metropolitan areas such as Sydney and Melbourne.
Whether it’s an investment property or your own home, if you’re considering buying a strata property, here’s what you need to know…
How it works
As NSW Fair Trading notes, living in a strata community differs to owning a house.
Effectively it means:
- you own your unit or apartment as well as sharing ownership and responsibility for common property
- if you own your unit, you are automatically a member of the owner’s corporation which has responsibility for common property and makes key decisions affecting the strata scheme
- you contribute to the cost of running the building through paying quarterly levies
- you also have to pay money into a capital works fund, for future long-term expenses such as painting the building or replacing guttering
- there will be lifestyle restrictions in a strata scheme.
Fees and maintenance
Before you purchase any strata property it’s important you understand the fees you will be required to pay as part of your contribution to its management and upkeep.
Most of these fees are equivalent to household expenses and incorporate council rates, water and electricity charges for common areas, building and public liability insurance, and the cost of ongoing maintenance and repairs.
In addition, every building committee must have a 10-year capital works plan, which sets aside funds for any major maintenance issues which are likely to arise over the next decade.
That’s why it’s important you investigate the state of the building before buying, looking at the condition of common areas and the general maintenance of the property. In addition, you should seek information about planned capital works and the financial records of the committee.
This allows you to gain an insight into how well the property is managed and any potential problems in the future.
When you own a strata property it’s important to clearly understand the areas that you are personally responsible for and can renovate, alter or repair, as Fair Trading explains:
“In most strata schemes, the lot owner owns the inside of the unit but not the main structure of the building.
“The internal walls within the lot (e.g. the wall between the kitchen and lounge room), floor coverings such as carpet and fixtures such as baths, toilet bowls and bench tops are all the property of the lot owner.
“Effectively, a lot owner generally owns the ‘airspace’ (and anything included in the airspace) inside the boundary walls, floor and ceiling of the lot.”
This means there may be restrictions on alterations you can make to items like balcony railings, and external sliding doors as these affect the exterior of the building.
It also means you may need to seek permission before installing services that require access to common areas, such as cable television, internet, and air-conditioning units.
To understand where the line is drawn, you should seek out information about the common property boundaries, which can be accessed in the strata plan.
All strata communities are governed by by-laws, which basically set out the rules of what people can and can’t do within that community.
By-laws can relate to things like security, parking, noise restrictions, balcony furniture and even the type of floor coverings you can install or the window furnishings you can use, so it’s critical you understand the rules before signing on the dotted line.
About United Strata Solutions
United Strata Solutions is a NSW-based company with over 20 years real estate experience and specialist expertise in strata management.
Our services extend from property appraisals, sales and marketing through to comprehensive strata and centre management throughout New South Wales.