How to Navigate Strata Schemes

New homeowners are embracing the apartment lifestyle more than ever before. The compact, low maintenance and convenient nature of living in a unit appeals to a broad range of people, from families and downsizers, to young professionals.

In fact, figures from the state government show that there are approximately 2 million people in strata-titled buildings in New South Wales, and this number is growing all the time.

These types of homes might even be a more affordable choice in many cases! So if you’ve decided to jump ship and use your home loan for one of these properties, what should you know about living in strata? Here’s a brief guide to help you get your head around the structure.

What does the owners’ corporation do?

Owning an apartment is much different than living in a detached home. While you’re in charge of maintaining all the land and property that comes with your own traditional house, strata schemes operate differently.

The owners’ corporation is made up of all the owners in the strata scheme, and is responsible for a wide array of maintenance, repairs and management tasks needed for common areas of the building. For instance, it takes care of gardening, upkeep of lifts, pool, gym etc.

To make sure the owners’ corporation has the money to do this, all owners need to pay a levy to the owners’ corporation, usually every three months or so. Before buying into a strata scheme, it’s a good idea to take the levies into account when putting together your budget. After all, these fees help keep the building in good condition and fund any larger projects or improvements in the future.

What am I responsible for?

While the owners’ corporation organises for repairs to be done on common property, there’s sometimes a bit of confusion about who’s responsible for what in a strata-titled building. So what are you in charge of?

In general, the external walls, roof and floors of an apartment don’t belong to a lot owner – but the air space within the internal walls are typically your domain. This includes things like benchtops, bathroom and kitchen fixtures, as well as the carpet.

The line can become a bit fuzzy, as each scheme can have slightly different rules. It’s worth flicking through the by-laws of your particular building before signing on the dotted line. Understanding what to do if there’s a problem, like a burst pipe or electrical fault, can also help you avoid disputes or even footing hefty repair bills. This can also dictate what renovations you can do in the unit, as well as whether you’ll need permission from other owners do them.

Buying an apartment can be a great choice for many people. If you’d like to know how much you can borrow to purchase one of these properties, the home lending professionals at Border Bank are on hand to guide you through the process.