25 Jun Apartment owners have their say
Apartment owners have their say
High-rise apartment developments can take several years to evolve from the initial planning phase to the day residents are able to move in and begin their lives in their brand-new homes. Buying off-the-plan requires a significant leap of faith for purchasers and benefits that they once valued may have lost some of their lustre by the time the boxes are unpacked. Developers continually try to follow current trends or build-in prescient additions to new projects, but with technology advancing at an astounding rate, sometimes they back the wrong horse or come up short.
The recently completed Australian Apartment Advocacy (AAA) survey aims to provide an accurate representation of residents’ and owners’ views to the strata industry allowing them to better meet the needs of the community. AAA received more than 3,300 responses from WA, Qld, NSW, and Vic, supplying representative data to analyse trends from not only those states, but compare nationally as well. AAA worked in partnership with SCA and provided SCA (Qld) with a copy of our state-focussed report and it has been a fascinating read.
Over 90% of residents who responded lived in one or two-person households, with nearly half of respondents of working age and in professional occupations. This statistic is somewhat unsurprising given the high number of one and two-bedroom apartments that have been built in recent years, especially in the state’s south-east. However, the question must be asked; are households choosing smaller apartments because they are small or are households small because there are not enough large apartments?
Whatever the answer, it appears that it may have been the case for some time with the data showing that nearly a quarter of respondents had lived in their home for over ten years. Only one in ten had resided in their lot for less than one year with nearly 70% spending at least three years at their current address. Unsurprisingly, the majority describe their apartment as being within walking distance of facilities and amenities such as shops, public transport, and green space, which may be an important benefit that keeps strata residents in their lot, with the location being a major factor in the decision to purchase for 91% of residents.
The good news in favour of the strata lifestyle is that 76% of owners found the (sinking fund and administrative) fees to be “fair, good, or excellent” value for money, with only 1 in 10 expressing a different view. Adding to this point, 62% of respondents were happy to continue to pay the same amount to maintain the apartment complex and its value. 1 in 10 was even happy to pay more than they are currently! Surprisingly, perceived value for money was not related to the level of fees, with those in the lowest fee bracket just as likely to believe their contributions wasted as those with higher levies.
Of course, it wasn’t all positive, and the survey provided several areas of improvement, especially for developers. The old complaint about strata lots continues to surface, with four in ten residents desiring more storage space, and, while only 22% would prefer their current apartment to be bigger overall, the vast majority preferring at least a two-bed two-bath as their next home. One and two-bedroom units may have been the recent trend, but it looks like developers will need to start catering for those looking for larger lots soon. That’s if developers can regain owners’ trust.
The survey respondents expressed considerable reticence in purchasing a lot off-the-plan. Only two in five residents were extremely, very, or moderately comfortable with buying a unit before the development was built. Display apartments, construction and design guarantees, and long-term estimated strata levy schedules would all help make potential purchasers more comfortable, but with defect alerts hitting the news each week, developers may have their work cut out to rebuild the industry’s reputation.
Overall, there appears to be a considerable level of satisfaction amongst apartment residents in Queensland, with a 98% positive response from residents. There is always room for improvement but, considering it’s hard to get 9 out of 10 people to speak positively about ice-cream, I think the state’s strata industry is doing pretty well.
If this data has piqued your interest, please contact Australian Apartment Advocacy for the full report.
Simon Barnard is the Managing Director and Principal of Hartley’s Body Corporate Management which is a medium sized strata firm established in 2004 at Sherwood and now operating out of Graceville, Newstead, North Lakes and Bribie Island. Simon is in his 6th year as President of the Board of Strata Community Australia (QLD) and was recently recognised for his service to the industry with a fellowship of the organisation and Life Membership.
Simon also is a past board member on the SCA National Board and is engaged at an International level through many consultative groups and associations. He meets regularly with the Industry Stakeholders group which is convened by the Commissioner for Body Corporate and Community Management and the Office of the Attorney General and actively engages at all levels of government.
Simon has recently been invited to represent the Strata industry on the QLD Government Ministerial Housing Consultative Committee tasked with advising on developing and delivering quality housing outcomes for people and communities. His contributions at an International, National and State level involve working with key stakeholders and government to ensure lot owners, industry employees, suppliers and Bodies Corporate needs are addressed through Government policy reform, education and training.