SOME PRE-PURCHASE BASICS ABOUT BUYING A STRATA APARTMENT…
March 2, 2023
Although buying a strata apartment might be a cheaper or first option for many, it’s actually not the simplest real estate purchase they can make. Unlike land or houses, strata apartments involve more complex titling, legal overlays, and operational issues that are not always obvious or logical. So, even a few basic pre-purchase checks will lead to better purchase decisions and a happier ownership experience.
Buying a strata apartment is a popular option for many people looking for a low-maintenance and convenient lifestyle. It’s often the property choice for first-time buyers because they don’t need more space [yet], they can be conveniently located, and, they sometimes have useful shared facilities like pools, gyms, etc. Plus, strata apartments are usually cheaper than houses in the same locations.
Strata apartments are also popular as residential real estate investments.
However, before buying a strata apartment, it’s important to understand what strata property ownership entails, what you can expect as a strata apartment owner and some useful things to check.
So here I outline a few basics about buying and owning a strata apartment, covering the key considerations and steps you need to take.
Understanding the strata scheme
A strata title complex is a type of multi-unit residential development where each apartment is owned separately, but common areas and facilities are owned collectively.
There’s a complex set of detailed laws that govern how strata schemes are run, what they must do, and the legal relationships between, the strata scheme, owners, residents, and others.
In a strata scheme, residents are subject to by-laws, which outline the rules and regulations of the scheme.
Before buying a strata apartment, it’s important to understand some basics about the strata laws and the details of the by-laws of the strata scheme and what they mean for you as an owner and/or resident. This includes understanding the restrictions on property use and alterations, pet ownership, parking, and more.
Reviewing the strata report
A strata report from an independent searcher provides a comprehensive overview of the strata scheme and is an essential tool for anyone considering buying a strata apartment.
Strata reports usually include information on the financial status of the strata scheme, the condition of the building and common areas, major decisions that have been made, and any ongoing disputes or legal issues.
It’s important to obtain a strata report before making an offer on a strata apartment, as this information can help you make an informed decision about the purchase.
Budgeting for levies & expenses
Strata apartments come with monthly or quarterly levies, which cover the cost of maintaining common areas and facilities, as well as insurance and other operating expenses. Sometimes there are also extra one-off levies for large or unexpected strata scheme expenses.
It’s important to understand the regular ongoing levies associated with a strata apartment and budget accordingly.
You should also try to find out if there are any extra one-off levies in place or coming and what they are for, as these can significantly impact your finances as a strata owner.
Inspecting the strata property
Before making an offer on a strata apartment, it’s important to inspect the apartment thoroughly.
This includes checking the condition of the apartment itself, as well as the common areas and facilities.
Apart from the condition of interior finishes, cabinetry, and applicants, you should also look for signs of water damage, mould, or structural issues.
You may want to get a building inspection by a professional if you’re spending a lot or if you have any concerns, as this can help you better identify potential problems and make an informed decision about your purchase and price.
Checking for building defects or defect claims
If the strata building is less than 10 years old, it’s also important to check for any building defects or defect claims associated with the strata schemes and the building as a whole.
A building defect claim refers to a problem with the building or common areas that is covered by the builder’s warranty.
These claims can be complex and time-consuming to resolve, as well as being expensive for the strata schemes. Plus, strata schemes often rely on building defects claims to cover the typically high cost of fixing defects, rather than levying strata owners. So it’s important to be aware of them before making a purchase.
Sadly, most new strata buildings have building defects as I’ve written about many times before.
To check for building defect claims, you can request a copy of the builder’s warranty, any reports related to defects in the strata building, and details of any defect claims that have or are about to be made. You can also ask the seller or agent for information.
Additionally, it’s a good idea to research the builder’s reputation and track record, as well as any news articles or online forums that discuss the strata building or the builder.
Doing your due diligence and checking for building defects or defect claims, helps ensure that you are not buying into a problem [or at least ensure you are aware of that].
Understanding your responsibilities
As a strata apartment owner, you have a range of responsibilities relating to your strata apartment, the strata building, and other strata owners and residents: including paying levies, participating in meetings, and, not making alterations without appropriate approvals. These are contained in the strata laws and strata scheme governing documents. Plus, there are a variety of online resources about strata ownership and living published by governments, strata industry associations, services providers, and commentators like me here at GoStrata Stak.
You should also be familiar with the by-laws of the strata scheme, as well as the dispute resolution process in case of any conflicts.
It’s important to understand your responsibilities as a strata apartment owner, as this will help you decide whether a strata apartment is right for you and to avoid problems when you are a strata owner.
Hiring a conveyancer or lawyer
A conveyancer is a professional who specializes in handling property transactions and can help you navigate the process of buying a strata apartment. Lawyers do this too.
And, they can help you understand the strata laws, review the strata scheme governing documents, obtain and explain the strata report, advise you on the by-laws, and ensure that the transfer of ownership is completed correctly.
If necessary they can also negotiate any issues that arise relating to your strata apartment purchase.
Buying a strata apartment can be an excellent investment as either your home or to make money.
But it also needs some pre-purchase checks and an understanding of the controls, laws, and responsibilities that come with this type of property ownership.
By doing some extra work at the start, you ensure that you’re making an even smarter strata investment and one that meets your needs and expectations.
Article contributed by Francesco Andreone, GoStrata
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