Top Tips for Buying an Apartment



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Apartments are a good option for homebuyers wanting city convenience – and they are often more affordable than freestanding houses.

More and more buyers who want the convenience of living near the city, without the price tag and maintenance issues that come with a house, are opting for an apartment. But with so many apartment buildings, and types of units, available throughout Auckland, it can be hard to know whether a particular property is a good buy.

The most common concern about apartments is the well-documented problem with leaky building syndrome. There are several ways to guard against getting caught up in this. Get body corporate minutes for the building in question for the previous few annual general meetings, and any extraordinary general meetings. These minutes will highlight any problems with the building. Would-be buyers can make a call to the Weathertight Homes Resolution Service to see if a claim has ever been lodged on the property. A moisture test and building inspection should also be carried out. Find out who the developer of the complex is, and check their history – and whether they have been involved in any developments that turned out to have leaky problems.

One of the big benefits of buying an apartment is that because the buildings generally contain a lot of properties that are very similar, if not the same, it is quite easy to get a good idea of what a property is worth. But this can work against a property when it comes time to sell: If someone in the building has to sell off their property quickly, similar units are quickly devalued.

Unlike freestanding homes, most apartment buildings operate under a body corporate – a group made up of apartment owners who oversee the running of the complex. The body corp generally takes care of the common areas, water supply, rubbish collection, and any issues with the building. Ask the real estate agent for a copy of the body corp’s rules – some specific things such as a ban on pets or on washing being hung outside. By looking at the condition of the common areas, you may get an idea of what kind of job the body corporate is doing. The real estate agent will supply information on the annual body corp fees – buyers should find out how often they are likely to be reviewed.

As well as the apartment itself, consider its amenities. The complex might have a pool and gym, and car parking adds to the value and desirability of any apartment. Is there visitor parking? How close is the building to things such as transport, schools, shops, and restaurants? This will affect its resale value. Check the security system and the lifts – how hard would it be to move furniture in and out?

Location is key. A north-facing apartment with sun and views is always sought-after, but buyers should visit at various times of the day and night, and during different types of weather. An apartment that feels light and sunny on a cool day could become very hot during warmer weather. Apartments are also vulnerable to the wind – stand on the balcony and see how blustery it is. Check the council’s district plan to see what could be built on neighboring sites. A beautiful view is of little use if it is going to be built out within a couple of years. A LIM report will also flag issues such as this.

The council can provide information on noise regulations – through parts of the city there are no restrictions, which could affect your ability to sleep at night or mean street cleaners bustle past at 4 am every day. Some buildings have acoustic glazing to combat this problem. Find out how well insulated and soundproofed the apartments themselves are – noise from neighbors can sometimes be an issue. In some buildings, while apartments are well soundproofed from each other, noise from the carpark and hallways can be an issue – check out how much foot traffic will be going past the apartment’s front door, and how close the unit is to the garage – people set their car alarms off at all times of day and night.

The makeup of the apartment block is important. The agent should be able to tell you what kind of proportion of the occupants are owner-occupiers, and how many are rentals. Buildings with a high number of owner-occupiers are generally quieter and better cared for, although that is not always the case. If you can, talk to someone who owns an apartment in the complex and find out whether they have had to deal with any issues, such as loud parties, thefts from storage areas, or people parking in the wrong carparks. Check whether any of the apartments are used for businesses – and what effect this will have on security and noise.

When it comes to apartments, bigger is better. It can be quite hard to secure funding for an apartment under 50 sq m, and smaller units can quickly become quite cramped. Michael Chen, of Harveys Auckland Central, says the most important consideration for most people is the size of the apartment. “Most people need more than 50 or 60 sq m.” If the apartment only has one set of windows, check the ventilation through the rest of the property – is there a fan in the bathroom and a range hood in the kitchen? Smells and moisture can linger. If the apartment is new, check the phone jacks and power points.

Before deciding on any property, go to lots of open homes. Check out a variety of apartment buildings and determine what kind of complex you want to live in, what sort of layout appeals, and what part of town would suit. When you find something that ticks all the boxes, get ready to spend weekend afternoons reading on the balcony, rather than mowing lawns or painting the house.

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