Security, convenience, low maintenance and extra features such as a pool, make apartment living attractive to buyers and tenants alike. But there’s no getting away from the lack of space, parking and privacy, and dealing with strata, all of which can be disadvantages.
Living in an apartment is becoming an increasingly popular choice for Australians. As of the 2021 census, the ratio of occupied apartments to houses was one to four; while in 1991 the ratio was one to seven.
Apartment blocks range from small complexes with two or so dwellings to huge high-rise buildings containing hundreds or thousands of units. Regardless of the size you choose, you're likely to be living in close proximity to your neighbours and likely sharing the building's facilities.
Advantages of apartment living
Apartments are generally cheaper to buy
Generally speaking, apartments are more affordable to buy than houses in the same area. In the Domain House Price Report December 2022 the median house price in Sydney was reported as being over $1.4 million while the median apartment price was $748,422. Melbourne was much the same: the median house price was $1.03 million and the median apartment price $561,463.
Access to shared facilities
Some apartment blocks may offer a range of shared facilities, such as a pool, gym or tennis court, as well as communal spaces like barbeque areas, lawns and gardens, and function rooms. Some may even provide childcare, a cinema or hold events.
Apartments are easier to maintain
There are rarely individual gardens or lawns to take care of when living in an apartment, helping to make them easier to maintain. Many apartment complexes have greenery in the shared spaces which are typically maintained as part of strata. Other parts of the complex such as the gym or pool are often cleaned, repaired and maintained by building management to help you enjoy the benefits without the responsibilities you would usually have in a house.
While security measures do differ between apartment complexes, buildings can have security doors, cameras, keypad-secured entrances and secure garages. Some expensive apartments can also have a concierge or door-man services for extra security. You’re also likely to be in close proximity to your neighbours and if you live above the ground floor it may be harder for thieves to break-in.
What are the drawbacks of apartment living?
Space is generally more limited
The overall floor space is generally smaller in apartments, with rooms more compact than in houses. They often don’t have private outdoor space unless a balcony is included.
Noise and privacy
With so many people sharing a complex the noise level can be higher and privacy will be less than living in a house. This applies to both your own living space and communal areas.
Parking isn’t guaranteed
Unless you're in a building with allocated parking spots sometimes you may not be able to park close to the building. If you want a parking spot it's likely you'll pay an extra cost for it.
Strata fees and restrictions
Living in an apartment block means being subject to rules around noise, use of communal areas, making changes to your apartment, and other matters set by the owners' corporation. If you're an owner you'll be liable for quarterly strata fees to pay for the upkeep and maintenance of communal areas.
Purchasing an existing apartment or off the plan?
Whether you go for an apartment in an older building or a new development depends entirely on your preferences. Older apartments tend to be cheaper but can be stuck in the 70's style-wise, while newer ones often include more communal facilities and modern features. If you're tossing up between the two there are a few things to consider.
New builds often have modern features and fixtures and often more amenities such as fitness centres, pools, green spaces, car parks and multipurpose communal areas. If it's your first purchase, you may also be eligible for a first home owner grant.
On the other hand, older apartments are generally more affordable in sale and rental price, as well as ongoing costs though you may miss out on extras that come standard with newer builds such as air conditioning or ducted heating. They usually have lower strata fees, often because you're not paying for the amenities attached to newer complexes.
Older apartments tend to offer more living space and many are in smaller blocks. They're also often of double-brick construction, meaning they're more durable, can provide better insulation and help block out noise.
Protect your property
Whether you’re an owner or renter, consider insuring the contents inside an apartment. This could help protect you financially against loss, damage and paying for repairs should an insured event such as a fire, burst pipe or break-in take place.
If you are an owner-occupier, it is likely that your building is covered under Strata Insurance, and you may only need contents insurance. But check with the body that manages your property if you are unsure. If you’re a renter, you can take out contents insurance to protect the things you own and some parts of the apartment.
Contents insurance covers items that aren’t permanently fixed to the building. Subject to certain limits and conditions, things that will generally be covered by contents insurance include furniture, carpets, blinds or curtains, electronics and appliances, clothing, jewellery, and other personal possessions. Parts of the building as well as communal areas and common contents are usually covered by strata and not home contents insurance.
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