Live the high life

By Susan Edmunds

Apartments are a good option for homebuyers wanting city convenience. More and more buyers wanting cheaper city living with less maintenance issues are opting for apartments instead of free-standing houses.
But with so many apartment buildings and unit types available in Auckland, it can be hard to know which property is a good buy.
The most common concern about apartments is the well-documented leaky building problem. There are several ways to guard against getting caught up in this. Get your hands on body corporate minutes for the building in question for the previous few annual general meetings, and any extraordinary general meetings. These minutes will highlight any problems with the building.
Would-be buyers can make a call to the Weathertight Homes Resolution Service to see if a claim has ever been lodged on the property. A moisture test and building inspection should also be carried out. Find out who the developer of the complex is, and check their history - and whether they have been involved in any developments that turned out to have issues with leaks.
One of the big benefits of buying an apartment is that because the buildings generally contain a lot of properties that are very similar, if not the same, it's easy to get a good idea of what a property is worth.
Websites such as offer information about recent sales and where buyers can find out what other units in the complex have sold for and compare them to the apartment they are considering.
However, this can work against a property when it comes time to sell. If someone in the building has to sell off their property quickly, similar units are quickly devalued.

Unlike free-standing homes, most apartment buildings operate under a body corporate - a group made up of apartment owners who oversee the running of the complex.
The body corporate takes care of the common areas: water supply, rubbish collection and any issues with the building. Ask the real estate agent for a copy of the corporate's rules - some specify things such as a ban on pets or on washing being hung outside.
By looking at the condition of the common areas, you may get an idea of what kind of job the body corporate is doing. The real estate agent will supply information on the annual fees but buyers should find out how often they are likely to be reviewed.
Also consider the apartment's amenities. The complex may have a pool and gym. Carparks add to the value and desirability of any apartment. Is there visitor parking? How close is the building to things like transport, schools, shops and restaurants? This will affect its resale value. Check the security system and the lifts - how hard would it be to move furniture in and out?
Location is key. A north-facing apartment with sun and views is always sought-after, but buyers should visit at various times of the day and night, and during different types of weather. An apartment which feels light and sunny on a cool day could become very hot during warmer weather.
Apartments are also vulnerable to the wind - stand on the balcony and see how blustery it is. Check the council's district plan to see what could be built on neighbouring sites. A beautiful view is of little use if it is going to be obscured by new developments in a couple of years. A LIM report will also flag issues such as this.
The council can provide information on noise regulations. In parts of the city there are no restrictions which could affect your ability to sleep at night. Some buildings have acoustic glazing to combat this problem. Find out how well insulated and soundproofed the apartments are - noise from next-door neighbours can sometimes be an issue.
Noise from the carpark and hallways can be an issue in some buildings, so check out how much foot traffic will be going past the apartment's front door, and how close the unit is to the garage - people set their car alarms off by mistake at all times of the day and night.
The make-up of the apartment block is important. The agent should be able to tell you what proportion of the occupants are owner-occupiers, and how many are rentals. Buildings with a high number of owner-occupiers are generally quieter and better cared for, although that is not always the case.
If you can, talk to someone who owns an apartment in the complex and find out whether they have had to deal with any issues, such as loud parties, thefts from storage areas, or people parking in the wrong carparks. Check whether any of the apartments are used for businesses - and what effect this will have on security and noise.
When it comes to apartments, bigger is better. It can be quite hard to secure funding for an apartment under 50sq m, and smaller units can quickly become cramped.
Michael Chen, of Harveys Auckland Central, says the most important consideration for most people is size.
"Most people need more than 50 or 60sq m."
If the apartment has only one set of windows, check the ventilation through the rest of the property - is there a fan in the bathroom and a rangehood in the kitchen? Smells and moisture can linger.
If the apartment is new, check the phone jacks and power points.
Before deciding on any property, go to lots of open homes. Check out a variety of apartment buildings and determine what kind of complex you want to live in, what sort of layout appeals and what part of town would suit.
When you find something that ticks all the boxes, get ready to spend your weekends reading on the balcony, rather than mowing lawns or painting the house.

- Northern Advocate

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