Thinking of buying a strata property? Find the answers to these seven questions first

You’re buying a strata property! Great! Investing in an apartment can be a shrewd move financially, as well as offering plenty of other benefits, such as convenience, minimal maintenance and a community atmosphere.

But before you sign on the dotted line to buy your wonderful new apartment, there are a few essential things you’ll need to know.

What exactly am I buying?

You’re buying an apartment, right? Well, yes … but there’s more you probably need to know. Generally speaking, when you buy a strata property you are basically considered to own the inside of the lot, i.e. the air space within the boundaries of the lot (keep in mind that the boundaries of the lot will differ depending on what building format plan the scheme falls under – but that’s a different topic entirely). Anything that falls outside these boundaries and is not within another owner’s lot is considered common property.

You’ll need to find out whether car spaces or garages are included within your allotment or under common property; and whether you’ll have your own garden, courtyard or driveway. You’ll also need to know what fixtures are on the list of inclusions (generally speaking, most fixtures are included, but it’s always a good idea to confirm). And find out if there are any restrictions on the use of common property that might affect you.

What are the levies and costs involved?

Levies are paid by all owners to help cover the cost of repair, maintenance and managing the building – allowing you to delegate the responsibility of managing the property, rather than being solely responsible. The actual fee amount you’ll have to pay depends on a number of different factors related to the building, and varies widely between schemes – and sometimes even between lot owners in the same building. Find out exactly what levies – and other costs – you’ll need to pay as part of your lot ownership.

What are the by-laws and can I abide by them?

Each scheme is governed by by-laws, which control the ways owners should act in relation to aspects such as noise, parking, safety, security, use of common property, damage, appearance of the lot and pets (to name a few – there are plenty more). Get a copy of the by-laws to discover whether you can live with them and are able to abide by them, as they will affect your life in the building in many ways.

Are pets allowed?

Pets are a non-negotiable for many people, and if you’re not going anywhere without your pet, you need to know whether Fido or Puss-in-Boots will be welcome in the scheme before committing. While strata legislation has become more pet-friendly than ever in recent times, you can’t just assume that your pet will be welcome. There may be extenuating circumstances that make pets unlikely, or there may be restrictions on the type of pet allowed. There will also be by-laws that will apply to your pet, and you’ll need to know whether you can reasonably abide by them, and exactly what rights and responsibilities you’ll have in relation to your pet.

What’s the financial and maintenance history of the building?

The history of the property will give you strong clues about what to expect in the future, based on problems experienced in the past. Get hold of a strata inspection report that details any major issues the building has, such as physical defects, legal issues and whether there are any pre-agreements on future renovations. Ask to see the maintenance schedule to discover if the building has been well-maintained in the past, and scrutinise the financial records to make sure it’s a wise financial buy before you commit.

What do I need to do before renovating my apartment?

If you’re keen on renovations, you’ll need to know to what extent you’re free to make changes to your apartment (hint: it may not be a great deal) and what hoops you’ll need to jump through to do so.

Who’s in charge?

And finally, find out exactly who is running the scheme. Strata properties are usually run by a body corporate (or owner’s corporation) which makes decisions on all matters which affect the collective group of owners. Find out who’s on the committee, or what the process is to become involved on the committee yourself if you’re so inclined.

Larger schemes may also employ the services of a professional body corporate management firm (such as Capitol BCA) who aids the committee in carrying out the functions of the body corporate. This may add more to the cost of the levies you’ll have to pay, but is likely to be worth it in terms of decreasing the level of involvement necessary for owners.

Contact Capitol BCA today to speak to the leaders in strata management in Queensland: