Checklist for buying an apartment

modern apartment

Joanne Brookfield

Posted January 07, 2022


Apartment living has plenty of appeal for the right buyer.

Whether you're an aspiring young buyer looking to enter the property market, or at the sunset of your career and looking to downsize, the lock-up-and-leave, low-maintenance lifestyle has a lot going for it.

There are thousands of apartments for sale, each with their own pros and cons. So which is the right one for you? Here's some of the key things you need to know before you buy.


What to consider before buying an apartment

Find the right building type

Generally speaking, there are two types. There are low-density blocks (eg. three levels with nine apartments) that are often older. The plus side is they usually have larger floor plans and separate kitchens, so more internal space, but may have communal laundries and only stairs, no lifts.

Then there are apartments in high-density developments. Usually smaller, but newer, they often have more energy-efficient appliances and other lifestyle features like pools, gyms and tennis courts. But you will also have 400 neighbours.

Know your neighbourhood

Apartment living is all about convenience, so what kind of amenity do the building and its surroundings offer? Is there a supermarket and cafe on the ground floor? Or how far will you have to walk for the nearest everyday essentials?

Are pets allowed? If so, how close is the nearest dog-friendly park? What kind of security, if any, is there?

Drivers, check there’s a designated parking space on the title. If you’re in the CBD, will your guests have any other option besides one-hour on-street parking? If there is visitor parking, how is that managed? How close is public transport? Or if you ride, what are the bike storage options?

Pick your priorities

Buying an apartment is just like buying a house. “Location, location, location” matters, for your own enjoyment, capital growth and, if you’re an investor, appeal to tenants. Low-quality stock may feel like a bargain but if you wouldn’t want to live in it, what makes you think a tenant would? It’s a renters market right now and vacant apartments don’t yield any return.

Orientation and ventilation. Is it north-facing? What kind of sunlight will you get? How wide do the windows open?

The higher up, the bigger a problem wind becomes on balconies. Some buildings will have Owners Corporations Rules rules about what you can put on the balcony, too. You might need permission to put plants or furniture there or be forbidden from storing bikes or drying washing.

How secure are those million-dollar views? Check with the council to make sure another tower isn’t planned for next door that will block your sightlines and drag down value.

Research the developer and builder, especially when buying off-the-plan. Are they reputable? Look for testimonials but also ask on socials – what have your friends heard or experienced?

Australian Building Standards (or the BCA) are the minimum. Ask the developer how and where have they exceeded those standards? Especially with materials used for the walls, ceilings and windows (important for soundproofing)

Check for obvious issues, like cracks in walls or mould, but also pay for a building inspection.

 

modern apartment

Does apartment living meet all the needs on your propertty checklist? Image: ALAMY. 


 

Life in the apartment

Will your furniture fit? How much internal storage space is there? Some buildings provide basement storage cages but these can also be targets for thieves.

What happens with garbage? Is there a chute or are you heading down twenty floors every day to pop rubbish bags into bins?

When inspecting the apartment, consider noise – can you hear the neighbours? Street life beyond? It’s great to be near a pub, but that will also mean late-night noise every weekend.

Find out about the bills

Some buildings have set providers for monthly bills, meaning you can’t shop around, you’re locked in with who they use.

You will buy on a “strata title”, which gives you individual ownership of the apartment within a multi-unit complex, and makes you a part of the “owners corporation”. You’ll then have to pay annual owners corporation fees, levies, and charges for as long as you own the property.

The more amenity a building provides – lift, concierge, rooftop garden, tennis court, etc – the higher your fees (some buildings in Melbourne are in the five-figures). This does not include council and water rates, insurance, and other property expenses.

Ask to read the minutes of previous owners' corporation meetings to see if any major repairs or capital upgrades are planned. Consumer Affairs Victoria has a detailed list of questions to ask the owners corporation here.

If you’re buying off the plan, ask for a three-five year forecast of the strata management budget and if the builder, developer, and strata manager are all the same? That’s a conflict of interest best to avoid.

Find out about your neighbours

Ask the agent for the ratio of owner-occupiers to tenants within the building, and also how many apartments are vacant.

Building policy on short-term stays? Not allowed? Great if you don’t want a high turnover of randoms but could be a problem if you planned to rent out your place on Airbnb.

Plan for the future

What kind of internet does the building have? Check coverage maps before buying.

Will the building infrastructure need to be updated at any point?

In what other ways are they future-proofing? Electric vehicles requiring charge stations are one example of how life is going to change in the next decade. Can the building keep up?

The information provided is general advice only. Before making any decisions please consider your own circumstances and the Product Disclosure Statement and Target Market Determinations. For copies, visit racv.com.au. As distributor, RACV Insurance Services Pty Ltd AFS Licence No. 230039 receives commission for each policy sold or renewed. Product(s) issued by Insurance Manufacturers of Australia ABN 93 004 208 084 AFS Licence No. 227678.


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