Apartment shopping can be a lot of fun but it’s dangerous to do it without a plan. And it can be even harder if you’re considering buying off the plan where you can’t actually see the finished product yet.
Smart buyers consider each property with a clear vision and will not compromise until they’ve found exactly what they want. This is great advice whether you’re thinking of buying an existing apartment or one that is brand new.
Priority might be for sweeping city views, access to a beach or an easy commute. Whatever the goals, it is important to be focused and patient, or you risk making an expensive wrong choice.
Here are 12 tips for buying an apartment:
- Identify your desirable suburbs: One of the benefits of choosing an apartment is its affordability in top suburbs compared with the cost of a house. Don’t compromise on the areas in which you wish to live, or you’ll miss some of the assumed benefits, such as convenient commuting or proximity to a city centre.
- Plan for the future: Whether buying an existing apartment or off-the-plan, be sure that it will provide sufficient room for your needs in the years ahead.
- List your must-have features: Obvious focus falls on the kitchen and bathroom(s), but you are unlikely to be able to change the floor plan, so you must be satisfied with the space and layout of the apartment.
- Identify the benefits over living in a house: If you are choosing to buy an apartment rather than a house for specific reasons, make sure your purchase delivers what you want. That could be less maintenance, secure parking or an on-site gym.
- Quality assessment: Check the credentials of the developer. This will provide you with a general assessment of the quality of the building and the fixtures of your apartment. This is especially important when buying off-the-plan
- It’s the vibe: Spend time walking around the apartment and its building if that’s possible. Notice the noise insulation, and whether you can hear, say, heels on tiles in the flat above, or the flushing of next door’s toilets. Make sure there are no peculiar smells or signs of vermin. Notice if neighbours look after their properties, the quality of landscaping, the security lighting, and upkeep of any external amenities, such as a swimming pool. Ask if the building has handicap access. These are all signs that indicate the quality of the apartment, and whether you would easily re-sell it in the future.
- Let the sunshine in: Apartment living can be bleak if access to natural light is poor. Worse, it will be detrimental to your own efforts to re-sell the property when the time comes.
- Better get a lawyer, Part 1: This sounds obvious, but too many buyers skate over complex issues. Hire an experienced lawyer to assess the contracts and subdivision plan. You must be clear on what you would own individually, your collective ownership with other apartment owners, and the status of communal facilities. Be clear on what fees will be charged to you for maintenance. Never take anyone’s guidance on this other than your own legal adviser.
- Better get a lawyer, Part 2: If you are buying off-the-plan, double-check the plan has actually been approved by the appropriate authorities. Putting a down payment on an unapproved plan is crazy. Even if the plan looks good, there is no way to know if a council or planning authority will not insist on changes that might affect either the floor plan or communal facilities that you will part-own.
- Good things don’t always come in small packages: Banks don’t like to lend money against apartments that are less than 40sqm. They’re seen as a risky investment because they struggle to re-sell and attract tenants. Give anything 40sqm or smaller a miss, if you can.
- Check-out the local area: Make sure you like the neighbourhood and that good transport services exist. Watch out for nearby rail lines, bus routes under the window and flight paths that could disturb your sleep, or powerlines and mobile phone towers that you may not wish to live next to.
- Them’s the rules: Experienced apartment owners talk about the 3 Ps – pets, parties, parking. It’s a useful euphemism for remembering to ask exactly what you can and cannot do in and around your apartment.