Is Strata Living Right for You?

Is Strata Living Right for You?

April 13th, 2016


When thinking about making the move to an apartment or strata complex, you need to make sure you’re the kind of person who will enjoy – or at least tolerate – strata living, because it’s very different from detached housing. And the most important thing to remember is that while your apartment will be your own space, everything outside that door will be shared with the neighbours.

Here are some considerations that will help you decide whether you’re up for strata living or not.

Strata levies

Not only will you be paying for utilities, phones, and council rates, but you’ll also be contributing to your strata fund. Levies, or body corporate fees, are regular financial contributions that are put towards the general upkeep of the complex.

They’re often calculated by the size of the lot you own, so generally, a three-bedroom property owner is going to be paying more than a two-bedroom one. Other factors that contribute to the amount include the age of the building, the size of the complex, and its amenities. For example, buildings with a lift or a swimming pool will have higher levies than walk-ups. Your overall payment will be going towards administrative costs and a sinking fund, which is used for bigger or long-term projects. If needed, owners corporations may also raise money via a special levy to cover unexpected or extraordinary expenses for example, a big paint job.

But remember, there are some good things that your levies will go towards, such as keeping the building clean, and in larger complexes, hiring people to take out the bins each week.

Close quarters

Unlike a detached property, many properties in a strata complex will be set in quite close quarters. This often means shared walls, common areas (where you’re highly likely to run into people), common garage space, and at times, lots of noise. If you’re used to the quiet serenity and privacy of your own home, strata living can take some time to get used to. And if you’re not a people person, bumping into your neighbours can be tough at times, especially if they’re one to chit chat.

There will be rules

With every strata complex, there will be rules you’ll need to follow. Some can be quite straightforward, while others will not be. And others, while not official rules, will be unspoken understandings around the building. The by-laws will regulate what can and cannot be done, so make sure you have a read of them. They may determine whether or not you can install air-conditioning, or whether you can drill into common walls, so it’s important to have access to them before you move in.

If you have pets, it’s crucial to find out whether the complex you’re considering even allows them, as a lot don’t. It may be worth having a chat to the neighbours or the owners corporation about this as sometimes the agent can be wrong. And then there’s the unwritten rules, for example, pick up after yourself in common areas, don’t use the visitors’ car spaces, and try not to be too noisy for the most part.

The meetings

Once a year, at least, you’re entitled to attend a meeting about the running of the scheme. If you cannot attend, you have the option of nominating a proxy. It’s during these meetings where important decisions are generally made, so it pays to be there. It’s also during these meetings where you can raise concerns and provide feedback to the relevant parties. If you’re up for it, consider taking a role on the executive committee. This means you can actively take part in big decision-making. You should also speak to the committee about the finances of the complex so you can see whether there are any red flags.

Remember, it differs

Every strata scheme works differently, and while they all need to abide by the rules and regulations, the by-laws of each complex will be different. Furthermore, each state has different strata laws, so you’ll need to read up on the relevant laws to your hometown.

Perhaps the most important consideration when deciding whether strata living is right for you is the close proximity of your neighbours and the day-to-day interaction that may occur. If you’ve lived in a detached property for a long time, this may take some getting used to. But often, the benefit of living so close to one another is the reliability that someone will care for your home if you’re not there. Plus, if you find a strata complex with exceptional amenities it’s an added bonus. While many people can’t afford their own pool, gym or tennis court, there are many complexes that offer these services. It’s just about figuring out what you want, what’s important to you, and finding the place that suits your needs.