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 2016 census, the ratio of occupied apartments to houses was one to five; 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’ll always 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 Domain House Price Report September 2019 the median house price in Sydney was reported as being almost $1.08 million while the median apartment price was $694,840. Melbourne was much the same: the median house price was $855,428 and the median apartment price $520,940.
Access to shared facilities
Many apartment blocks 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 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, making them easier to maintain. Many apartment complexes have greenery in the shared spaces which are 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 so you can enjoy the benefits without the responsibilities you would usually have in a house.
They’re generally more secure
While security measures do differ between apartment complexes, a lot of buildings have security doors, cameras, keypad-secured entrances and secure garages. The more expensive apartments can also have a concierge or door-man services for extra security. You’re also in close proximity to your neighbours and if you live above the ground floor it’s typically harder for thieves to break-in.
What are the drawbacks of apartment living?
Space is 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. If you have a family then having limited space may mean an apartment isn’t suitable.
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 a premium 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. These can range from $500 up to thousands per quarter.
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 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.
It’s important to consider that some new developments can be built hurriedly to meet the demand for housing. This can affect the quality of the build, so you need to be certain a new apartment is the right choice.
A notable example of a new build gone wrong is Mascot Towers in Sydney. In June 2019 significant cracks appeared in the building’s primary support structure and facade masonry. Residents from all 132 apartments were evacuated and the owners are now facing repair costs totalling millions of dollars.
On the other hand, older apartments are generally more affordable in sale and rental price, as well as ongoing costs though you 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, provide better insulation and help block out noise.
Protect your property
Whether you’re an owner or renter, make sure you insure your apartment and the contents inside it. This will help protect you financially against loss, damage and paying for repairs should an insured event such a fire, power surge or break-in take place.
A combined home and contents policy is ideal if you’re an owner-occupier, as it protects both your apartment and your belongings. But check to see if your strata insures the building, as then you may only need contents insurance. 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, floating floor boards, 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.
Home insurance covers the structural elements of your apartment as well as fixed floor coverings (except carpet), heating and cooling units, your dishwasher and cooker, and other permanently attached fixtures.
ANZ Home and Contents Insurance offers new for old replacement (regardless of age), full building replacement cover should your home be totally destroyed, cover for a number of events such as natural disasters including floods and bushfire, and cover for electrical motor burnout and power surge. ANZ won the Canstar 2019 Outstanding Value Home & Contents Insurance Award. Find out more or get a quote below.