Apartments tend to tie up less time with maintenance than houses, especially if there's a body corp taking care of business. Other attractions are security and being close to cafes, entertainment and transport hubs.
But caution is still needed when buying an apartment. You need to do your homework so you pay the market rate and you certainly don't want to buy into a leaky building or one with excessive overheads.
And although body corporates take the headaches out of maintenance and upkeep of shared grounds, you do need to ensure the annual costs are affordable and whether any major, more expensive improvements are planned.
A great source of information is Smarter Homes, a website providing independent facts about sustainable home design, building and lifestyle options. Owned by the Department of Building and Housing, it was created by the department, the Ministry for the Environment, Consumer, Beacon Pathway and URS, with assistance from other organisations.
Some information applies to all dwellings but the Top Tips for Buying an Apartment section is for apartments. It suggests buyers make a wish list covering price, location, size and features such as sun, views or proximity to services as well as checking for weathertightness and the warning signs of a leaky building.
When gathering information, Smarter Homes suggests:
Read the Body Corporate Rules to check which areas of maintenance are the responsibility of all owners of the apartment building and which are the responsibility of individual owners. You should also ask to see the body corporate minutes.
Obtain a copy of the certificate of title from Land Information New Zealand (a lawyer or search agent can get this for you).
Check the District Plan and/or local council design guidelines as to what can be built on neighbouring sites. You don't want to lose privacy or views.
The Land Information Memorandum from your local council should tell you about rates, restrictions on use of the land/buildings, resource consents, sewage and stormwater pipes and environmental issues such as erosion, flooding and hazardous substances that might affect the site.
Contact the Weathertight Homes Resolution Service to see if any claim has been lodged on the building.
For an idea of price, look at other properties on the market, hire a valuer or buy information from the Quotable Value website.
Ask who the architect, builder and developer were. If any have gone out of business this might indicate problems with the development.
Which way do the windows face? Is it insulated? Visit at different times of the day to see how the sun affects the apartment.
Are access areas well-lit and visible? Are there security cameras?
Check which doors and windows can be opened to let air in.
Does the neighbourhood feel safe? Are there bars, schools or workplaces nearby that might be noisy, smelly or dusty?
And, before you sign any agreement, seek legal advice.