Consider this when buying into a strata title

Whether it’s an investment or a place to call home, buying into a strata title community offers great benefits. Often more affordable than freestanding properties, they provide access to amenities like pools, communal gardens and off-street parking.

Major maintenance is also taken care of, while a ready-made community is right outside your door.

But as with everything, some strata title communities are better than others, so here are five things to consider as you seek out a place to call home.

Maintenance

Buying into a strata title is somewhat different to owning a free-standing property. While the space within the property’s boundary walls is yours, the external walls, floor and roof are usually classed as common property, meaning the maintenance and responsibility for these rests with the owner’s corporation.

NSW Fair Trading notes that means an owner needs permission to install services like cables, to knock down walls or even replace locks on doors and windows.

“Before buying into a strata scheme, you should be clear on the common property boundaries. For a definitive answer on the common property, refer to the strata plan for your individual strata scheme from Land and Property Information NSW,” they say, adding you should pay close attention to “sliding doors leading to balconies, garage doors and balcony railings, as strata plans may differ on whether these are common property”.

Inside the property boundary the airspace and everything within it like floor coverings, internal walls, bath fixtures are the owner’s responsibility. But sometimes this “airspace” extends beyond to courtyards, balconies and pergolas.

“They could be in your airspace and, therefore, would be maintained at your cost,” Fair Trading explains. “You should also check whether things like car spaces or gardens are part of your lot. If they are, you will be responsible for their maintenance.”

Costs

As an owner you automatically become a member of the owner’s corporation or body corporate, meaning you have the right to play a role in decisions made about the entire property.

It also means you are required to contribute to the cost via levies that include general administration and maintenance.

Every owner’s corporation is required to establish two funds; an administrative fund for day-to-day operational expenses and a capital works fund for short and long-term future capital works.

Before buying into a strata title property it is essential to ascertain what type of costs this may involve. It will cover items like council rates, water and electricity, building and public liability insurance and will also extend to short and long term maintenance such as repainting the building’s exterior, and the repair or replacement of common area fixtures and fittings.

Fair Trading notes: “The owners corporation must estimate how much money is needed each year for the funds to cover all the expenses and needs of the strata scheme.

“An owners corporation must take into account anticipated major expenditure identified in the 10-year plan for the capital works fund. The levy amount to be paid by owners is decided at each annual general meeting (AGM) by a majority vote. All levies must be worked out based on the unit entitlements of each lot. Levies are usually paid every 3 months”.

While inspecting properties it’s prudent to pay attention to their general condition, keeping a watchful eye on common items like pools, gardens, building condition and other areas, and seek expert advice if necessary. You should also examine the records of the owner’s corporation.

Management

Some strata buildings are managed by the owner’s corporation, while others have a designated executive committee, managing agent or caretaker. Regardless of who has responsibility for your proposed purchase, you should meet with them to better understand any by-laws or issues that affect your property.

Knowing the applicable by-laws is important as it applies to issues like whether or not you may have pets, parking policies, noise restrictions and other items relating to shared living environments.

Meeting the management will also help you understand the general feel of your possible new home or investment, and understand how well it is run.

Community

But strata living isn’t just about paperwork, levies and fine print. It’s also about community, and to find out what type of community yours would be, it’s a great idea to have a casual chat with some of the neighbours before buying.

This will help you flag any potential issues, but also reveal whether this is a harmonious shared site or not. Questions to ask may include whether there are community activities, social events or shared projects, and how well does management fare at resolving any disputes.

Environment

It almost goes without saying that the strata title environment plays a large role in whether or not a living situation is suited to you. Do people seem happy there? Are the grounds well-tended, is there security on-site and what type of tone is set by the signage around the place.

Most importantly how do you feel – are you safe, secure and content while inspecting the property, and are people accessible with information easy to come by?

If so, then a strata title property could make a great investment or new home, just be sure to get all the information you require prior to purchasing. A comprehensive list of records and information you should request is available at your relevant state government department, or seek the advice of your solicitor.

About StrataSpot

StrataSpot is a cloud based app that facilitates harmonious living in strata communities. It allows committees, residents, owners and building managers to connect with ease. From providing information about parking and by-law updates to handling maintenance requests, the software ensures every party has access to all the information they require.

You can learn more about the services we offer including our communication tools here.

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