Many Kiwis love the apartment life — but the smaller the home, however, the bigger the questions buyers must ask. Some of those questions are tricky.

In Auckland the median price for an apartment is $530,000, compared to $900,000 for all properties, according to data from Valocity.

Apartments aren't always as cheap as those numbers suggest, thanks to body corporate levies, and if the property is leasehold you'll need to pay ground rent as well.

Body corporate levies cover the costs of running the building, such as cleaning and maintenance, and will usually include insurance.



If there are lifts, gyms, and other facilities in a building the body corporate levy can start to get expensive.

Just because you can get pre-approval for a home of the same size doesn't mean you can borrow on an apartment. Buying a large freehold apartment may only require a 20 per cent deposit, says Wayne Lawrie of Mortgage Studio.

For smaller apartments or leasehold apartments it's likely the lender will require a much higher deposit.

The banks tend to take this on a case-by-case basis because they are nervous about apartments. So always get advice from a mortgage broker.

Property lawyer Nick Kearney, of Schnauer and Co, says make sure you do your homework about the body corporate. Find out about the chairperson and committee members.

Make sure you read the body corporate minutes from the past two to three years to find out what has been discussed, says Kearney.

The minutes will also highlight issues such as fire safety and earthquake strengthening, which could be a costly headache if they're not up to current standards.

Beware that sometimes owners avoid certain facts relating to defects in the building being included in the minutes because it could affect the value of their apartments.

Ensure you read all the documentation. That will include a pre-contract disclosure statement, a pre-settlement disclosure statement and an additional disclosure statement if requested. Do not sign a sale and purchase agreement until your solicitor has reviewed these.

Pre-contract disclosure will tell you details such as the cost of the levy for your apartment, upcoming building maintenance, savings held by the body corporate, and whether the unit or common property has had any weather tightness issues.

Sadly many apartment buildings built or renovated between 1994 and around 2004 suffer from weather tightness problems, which could result in owners expected to foot the bill for repairs. It's always a good idea to get your lawyer to check that the body corporate has sufficient money in its long-term maintenance plan, so you won't be hit with huge one-off costs.

Make sure you are very clear about the body corporate rules. They limit what you can do in your apartment. The rules may regulate whether or not you can dry washing on the balcony, and in some cases Kearney has come across, even the colour of your curtains, to keep up the building's aesthetics from the outside.

Interior designer Anthea Baker, of Homebase, says apartment developers are always looking to maximise profit when they build. As a result there isn't always enough storage space.

Ask yourself where your iron and vacuum cleaner will go, your clothing, your suitcases and your bicycles. It seems like a lot to ask, but if you've done your homework your purchase and ownership is likely to go smoothly.