It may not conjure the same romantic image you'd associate with the Kiwi dream of doing up the backyard deck or garden — a trailerload of kwila, a lawnmower and the like — but compact living in city-centre apartments is a growing reality for many New Zealanders.
High property values coupled with changing lifestyle expectations are increasing demand for more affordable, modern apartments. (To give you an idea, our research shows that the volume of apartment stock in Wellington is up 60 per cent over the past 10 years).
With this in mind, what should you consider when buying and maintaining an apartment to maximise its value?
Something you could consider is buying an apartment off the plans. In other words, buy a planned property development before it's built. That way, provided market values are growing, you could make capital gains before you even get your hands on a set of keys.
A key consideration is access to community amenities. People are wanting to live closer to parks, shops, tennis courts, gyms, pools and transport hubs.
Not only will this enhance lifestyles, it will also impact property values.
Auckland illustrates this point, where we're seeing varying demand from suburb to suburb. Hobsonville Point, for example, with a good portion of high-density housing including terraced houses and apartments, has experienced strong demand due to its scale and amenity. In contrast, smaller infill developments with poor access to amenities are proving less attractive.
Also consider future developments, such as the potential for light rail in Auckland or the Shelly Bay development in Wellington. These could transform each area and grow thriving communities.
Another factor is the building. Its age and long-term maintenance plan will indicate how much investment might be required in future years. Check the AGM minutes — does the body corporate appear to be well managed? Do the rules allow you to keep pets? Have you considered access to parking? In earthquake-prone zones such as Wellington, check your building's New Building Standard (NBS) rating.
You'll also want to look at the apartment's layout and design. Does it maximise space?
It's worth noting that concrete internal walls may prevent any tweaking. Exposure to sunlight and the view are obvious aspects to assess.
Finally, get a feel for the quality of surrounding apartments. For example, buying a three-bedroom penthouse apartment among a block of one-bedroom student rooms may impact on your apartment's marketability. Generally, it's best to buy within a block of similar quality units.
So, you've now moved into your apartment. What can you do next?
As your body corporate should take care of all external maintenance needs, your focus will be on internal work. In an older building, modernising the kitchen and bathroom coupled with tasteful decoration can help although your property's value is mostly dependent on its original design.
Using Kiwi ingenuity, we'll continue to evolve the way we transform and maximise space in compact living spaces.
We may even create a new version of the typical Kiwi dream.