Strata or Bricks and Mortar ? – the things to weigh up when buying a first home ?

About the Author:

Name: Aris Dendrinos

Agency: Richardson and Wrench – Marrickville

When venturing out of the cave for the very first time into the big bad world of home ownership there are so many choices confronting the would be buyer.

How many bedrooms ? Parking ? On top of the station or nice quiet street ?

aprtment-sydney

But probably the biggest one of all is the “type” of home you would want to live in.

And the two main types are Strata which takes the form of apartments & townhouses or solid Torrens title houses.

So let’s look at the pros and cons of both.

It’s never wise to assume but for the purposes of this article I’m going to assume that the budget would be identical for both items and an equivalent desirable location can be found for either, ie. a luxury two bedroom apartment in Bondi with views compared to a nice two bedroom family home in Marrickville.

So let’s start with apartments/townhouses. Probably the biggest advantage or positive that has rapidly evolved over the past five years is the convenience factor. Apartments, especially many of the new ones are generally situated in central locations that are within easy walking distance to all desirable facilities which include shops, schools, parks and public transport. In many instances if these new apartment developments are large enough the infrastructure is “built-in” with a new supermarket, or open parkland area coming with the package.

With everything speeding up so much in this blink and you’ll miss it technological age, the way of life of your average Sydneysider (or any modern westernized city dweller for that matter) has changed dramatically turning the traditional must haves on a buyers wish list on its head.

For example, the ownership and use of a vehicle is evolving rapidly for many inner city apartment residents. With the advent of Uber along with GoGet car spaces on public streets and in many parking lots of new developments as well as public transport, many people are abandoning ownership of a car altogether and choosing to live a more central, localized lifestyle. The increase in traffic and difficulty to navigate your way around greater Sydney is also a big factor in many  buyers considering an apartment in a key well located suburb of the city to be much better than a nice house in a similar price range which leaves you stuck in gridlock hell during peak hour every weekday.

Other conveniences that an apartment offers include such things as pools, gyms and a higher level of security with intercoms, swipe cards and gates.

In addition to these creature comforts apartments are much lower maintenance than the good old Torrens Title home. You pay your strata levy each quarter and you don’t have to fix the leaking roof, paint the outside or update the building insurance. You also don’t have to clean the common areas or water the back yard to make sure the grass keeps growing. It’s very much a lock and leave kind of life which many young first time buyers find attractive as the growing demands of work and family suck more and more of our time away.

 

So what could be possibly be bad with this Utopic apartment existence I hear you ask ?

Well for starters if you were to ask me the one character trait a strata title resident needs to have if they want to be happy it would be this – the ability to share and compromise.

No man is an island and this never is more true than in Apartmentland. From noise issues to privacy issues and sharing of common facilities if you aren’t open to a collective way of life then put the big red pen through Strata.

The restrictive nature of this type of property also heightens when you add pets and kids into the mix. Both of these joyful little treasures require more space and time to play which is always in strictly limited supply in apartment buildings.

And forget about changing something quickly in an apartment complex. Big decisions are made generally at a snail’s pace as it takes much longer to get the Body Corporate family together to discuss and agree on a course of action. For example, the younger owners may be all for installing synthetic turf into a common area of the property for kids and pets to play but the long term elderly owner occupiers have neither the money or interest to agree.

 

So that’s apartments, but what about a house ?

The major benefits of bricks and mortar are fairly simple. First of all you are literally master of your own domain. Whatever you wish to do to your property (subject to council approval of course) is on the table on whatever time frame you want. New roof ? No problem. Rear extension with parking ? Done. Basically you have a far greater ability to change the item thus allowing you to live in it for a longer period and create far more potential for significant capital growth.

And following on from this the land your home sits upon can also change very quickly not only in value but also use thus leading to potentially an exponentially higher sale price and wealth creation levels previously unthinkable. With an apartment this cannot happen.

Houses also tend to sit in clusters of other houses which can make for a greater community experience and outdoor lifestyle with such examples as cul de sacs, street parties, etc. There is obviously more room to move for the future family with outdoor areas that the kids or Fido can play in.

And the downsides ? Well it’s all on you for a start. At least with improvements you know you are potentially getting a return on investment down the line but when it comes to repairs this is pretty unlikely, and the repairs bill for a house can escalate fast. From replacing the entire roof, to new fences, rewiring, and new flooring there is a much larger exposure to unwanted and unexpected costs at the most inconvenient time when money is tight.

The location of a house in an identical price bracket to an apartment will also mean generally a location that is less central to the more popular and necessary facilities in Sydney. This would mean more time is spent each day commuting both to and from work which lessens the amount of enjoyment one can derive from a more attractive property. There isn’t much use owning a lovely home if you hardly ever use it once you tally off sleeping, working and getting to and from work.

In the end it comes down to the apple or the orange. Both taste pretty good so ultimately it’s a personal choice.

 

 

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