Not that long ago, the favourite type of property to purchase was the stand-alone home on a block of ground. These days, several factors have combined to make buying an apartment more popular. But property lawyers agree that most apartments in a complex have Strata Title, which is quite different from the titles of homes on blocks of ground. You need to know what these differences mean for you before going ahead with the purchase.
- You will own your apartment, but in the complex there are many areas such as stairways, laundry rooms or social meeting rooms that are deemed to be ‘common property’. The upkeep and maintenance for these areas must be paid for by everyone who owns an apartment in the complex. So you’ll be in for an annual levy to make this possible. If the building has been poorly maintained it is likely to be a high levy due to the amount of maintenance needed. There may also be a second levy for what is known as a ‘sinking fund’ which addresses long term expenditure. You need to inquire about the balance of this fund to get some idea of what you are likely to have to pay, and if it’s enough to do the repairs that are needed.
- Swimming pools or lifts can increase the levies you need to pay, since those features are high maintenance. Your real estate agent should be able to get you the minutes of the last AGM so you can see if there are any important issues pending.
- Get a copy of the Strata’s building plan to determine the boundaries of your apartment. In some cases it is only the interior boundaries that are included in the sale price and exterior walls may be part of the common property.
- Find out if any part of your property is deemed ‘exclusive use’. This can apply to balconies or courtyards. It means that while you have exclusive use of that area, it is actually deemed common property. However, the maintenance of that area is your responsibility.
- Look at all the by-laws for the strata complex and read them carefully. Some may affect your lifestyle. You’ll find out whether you can have pets or not and other things you may have taken for granted are not allowed.
Many people enjoy the benefits of living in a strata titled apartment. Complexes offer a feeling of community and safety and may cost less than a home on a block of ground. There is also less maintenance for those who are older or who don’t have time to mow or maintain a pool themselves. But unless you know exactly what to expect, you might find some unwelcome surprises should you move in without doing the proper research.