What to look for when buying an apartment

Couple getting the keys to their new apartment
Investor or first time buyer

If you’re thinking about buying an apartment, this handy list will help you make sure your potential purchase is a good fit for you.

If you’re a first time buyer or property investor, an apartment can be a savvy purchase. Often cheaper than houses, they present great value for money with a huge range to choose from in convenient inner city locations. 

They definitely have a lot going for them, but that doesn’t mean you should go into your purchase blindly. In fact there are a few things you should carefully consider before making an offer. Our handy checklist can help you make sure you’re picking a purchase that will pay off.

Ownership and strata costs

There’s more to buying an apartment than your monthly mortgage payment. You will also likely be responsible for body corporate or strata costs. Your real estate agent should provide you with a breakdown of all associated costs, but you can also request financials and corporate meeting minutes.

You should look into any capital works or outstanding legal issues that you may be expected to contribute to to make sure you have a full idea of the associated ownership costs. If your agent is not able to advise you about this, the management and owner’s corporation should be able to give you the information you need. 

Parking and facilities

If you need to narrow your choices down, there is no better way to do it than by looking into the parking and facilities available at the buildings you’re interested in. Parking is a premium extra in inner city locations, and not all buildings include them. Not only should you look into whether your unit comes with a space, but you should also find out:

  • if the parking space is part of your title
  • what the visitor parking situation is
  • what are the council restrictions for on-street parking and permits.

You should also look into other communal facilities available at your building. Pools, outdoor areas and storage areas are all worthy extras that can boost your lifestyle or make your investment more appealing to renters.  

Location and amenities 

Location is at the top of most buyers’ checklists and rightly so. Since apartments offer less living space, you want to make sure they’re conveniently located with plenty of lifestyle options close at hand. 

Those who have kids will want to make sure public transport and schools are nearby. Those looking for inner city convenience should look into nearby shopping and entertainment. Other location points to check include: 

  • parklands
  • employment opportunities 
  • sporting facilities or gyms
  • retail and dining venues
  • childcare facilities.

When considering location, you should also think about the potential development of the area. If a quick drive through the area doesn’t produce clues, check with your local council to see if there are any approvals in place for new buildings going up. This could block out your views or cause road closures. Even worse, it can affect the value of the property.  

Developer and builder

As with any major purchase, you should do your homework to find out the basics of your building. Look up the developer and builder, and check their records to get a better idea of their reputation and quality of their work. 

If you’re buying off the plan, this is especially important because you want to ensure your unit will be finished on time. 

Quality of layout and finishes

If you’ve ticked off all of the above, now it’s time to consider the basics of the apartment you’re interested in. Ask yourself: 

  • How many bedrooms and bathrooms? 
  • Is it open plan living? 
  • Does it include an outdoor area? 
  • What are the wardrobes and additional storage like?
  • Is it wired for internet and cable?
  • How many power points are there?
  • Are there any structural issues (ie cracks, leaks or mould) 
  • What is the quality of the fixtures and finishes included (ie bench tops, taps, carpets, flooring, appliances, etc)? 

Renovating apartments can often mean going through lengthy approval processes, so it’s easier to make sure you’re buying a quality property that meets your needs. This can help ensure you’ll be satisfied with your purchase and happy to live in the space. If you’re an investor, all of the above will affect the unit’s value and its appeal to potential tenants. 

The neighbours and building

Finally, consider the building and the neighbours. This is especially true if you intend to live in the unit. Even the most luxurious unit can be ruined by noisy neighbours or a poorly constructed building. A few things to consider include: 

  • Noise — can you hear neighbours or street noise when you’re in the apartment?
  • Smells — does the unit or building smell like damp or garbage?
  • Rubbish — are there chutes and how often is the rubbish collected?
  • Vacancy rates — how many units are empty and how will this affect its rental potential?
  • Owner occupiers — how many people in the building are renting and how many are owner occupiers? 
  • Management — are the property managers on site or external?
  • Maintenance — what are the maintenance procedures and approval processes for internal and communal spaces/facilities?

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