If you’re thinking of getting into the property market and buying a unit, apartment or townhouse, you need to learn more about what a strata title property means.
Knowing the pros and cons of owning a strata title property as well as your responsibilities as a lot owner can help you understand what you’re actually purchasing.
What is a Strata Title?
When you buy a strata title property, you not only own the individual unit, apartment or townhouse (also known as the lot), but you also have shared ownership of the ‘common property’. This can include foyers, gardens, lifts, fences, and driveways.
Although residential properties take up the largest share of the 340,601 strata schemes in Australia, caravan parks, retirement villages, factory units and commercial properties can exist under strata plans.
What is considered common property?
As the name implies, common property in a strata scheme are the areas used by all the lot owners, such as
- Garden and/or outdoor living spaces
- Basement car park
- Vehicle access gates
- BBQ areas
- Communal laundries
- Leisure facilities, like a pool or a gym
If you are unsure what falls under common property in your strata building, look at the strata or survey plan and find out where the boundaries are.
The common property, as well as its management and maintenance, is the responsibility of the body corporate. This legal entity is also known as an owners corporation, community corporation or strata company, depending on where you live in Australia.
|Where can you find strata properties for sale Down Under? Take a look at the best real estate websites to get started.
Responsibilities of lot owners in strata buildings
There are differences between owning a stand-alone house and a strata title property in Australia. The following are your duties under the strata scheme.
A strata building has several restrictions in place regarding guest parking, noise level, pets, damage to common property, the use of recreational facilities and other aspects involved in communal living. These are set by the strata building’s body corporate to ensure owners live in a harmonious living environment.
Take part in annual general meetings
At annual general meetings, strata lot owners appoint office bearers and committees. They also use these meetings to discuss issues regarding common property, including significant renovations and repairs.
Usually, your attendance isn’t mandatory (you can send a proxy in your place), but it is a good idea if you want to learn how your annual contribution to the body corporate is spent. It will also give you the chance to vote on major decisions, such as large-scale renovations.
Paying fees & levies
As a strata owner, you must contribute money to a sinking fund which is used to cover ongoing maintenance and repair costs of the common area.
Notify the body corporate of any changes
If you decide to sell your lot or sign a contract with other tenants for the rental lot, you’ll have to notify the body corporate.
Maintain your own unit
Each strata owner is in charge of their own private-use lot, which includes upgrades, repairs and maintenance. Note that your unit and contents are not covered by the body corporate’s public liability insurance in a strata title property, meaning you need to take out an individual policy to cover your personal belongings.
Advantages of buying a strata title property
Why are strata title properties popular in Australia? Here are a couple of upsides to being a strata owner.
Considering the current housing market, buying a unit or apartment is a lot cheaper than investing in a stand-alone house. Thus, this is a more affordable way to enter the property market, regardless of whether you are looking for a place of your own or thinking about investing in property.
Lower prices also mean that you can afford to buy a home in one of the best places to live in Australia where properties typically come with a higher price tag.
2. Loan approval
What’s more, since they cost less you would need to take out a smaller loan—this, in turn, means it is easier to get approved for strata financing than a regular home loan.
3. Use of facilities
Strata buildings typically have common-use facilities like pools, gyms, outdoor entertaining areas and parking that you can use without paying extra. What’s more, maintenance of these facilities is undertaken by the body corporate, instead of you personally. In other words, you can leave for an extended period of time or rent out the unit without worrying about maintenance of the common area.
4. Maintenance cost
Strata properties are typically cheaper to maintain since the cost for repairs and renovations is divided among all the owners.
A strata title property with locked front access or a gated community can provide better security than a stand-alone property.
6. Voting rights
You have a say in how the building is run and on all things strata-management related, including rules on guest parking, pets, noise, renting policies and more. So, if you are one of the 61% of Australians who own a pet, but your building does not allow animals, you could propose a change in the strata act to accommodate your preferences.
What Should You Consider Before Buying a Strata Title Property?
Body corporate fees & levies
You need to know exactly how much body corporate fees are before you buy the property.
While a special levy may sometimes be raised in case of emergency repairs, all strata owners in Australia must have a 10-year sinking plan in place. This plan details the amount of money the body corporate would need over the following decade and the annual levy, giving you a good idea of how much you will have to contribute every year.
Keep in mind that fees and levies are higher in older buildings or townhouses (which require more repairs) and ones that have luxury amenities (that cost more to maintain).
Note: Council fees are also payable on top of strata management levies.
Rules & regulations
The by-laws for your building may be strict, and you might have restrictions on the areas where you can park, the type of pets you can have, as well as the renovations and modifications you can carry out. Make sure to get familiar with these by-laws before buying a unit—you don’t want any surprises after you purchase the lot.
Usually the more people involved in a strata scheme, the longer it takes to reach decisions. The joint decision process also means that your ideas or proposed solutions might be rejected by other lot owners. Say, you want to resurface the driveway—if you lived in a stand-alone property, you could carry out renovations whenever you like. However, in a strata scheme, you need the consent of all lot owners before you can proceed with repairs.
The value of your individual lot is affected by the value of the other lots in the building as well as the condition of the common property. If either of these are poorly maintained or the money in the sinking fund is not used reasonably, the value of your apartment will likely go down as well.
Communal-style living is not for everyone. You could experience noise disturbances and disagreements with other lot owners. Think long and hard about whether this style of living will suit you before you start looking at properties.
As a lot owner you will have more responsibilities in the management of the complex. You might want to talk to a professional conveyancer before you look at a property with a strata title—they are best equipped to advise you on the purchase and related responsibilities.
If you’re not up to the challenge, it might be better to look at individual homes rather than strata title property.
1. What is the difference between a Strata vs Torrens title property?
If you have a Torrens title, you are the sole owner of the property and can make changes or as you see fit. A property with a Torrent title is also known as a freehold.
When it comes to a building or house with a strata title, the common property has multiple owners, all of whom are responsible for maintenance and repairs.
2. What is a strata manager?
The body corporate can use the services of a strata manager (or strata management company) who will be responsible for the day-to-day running of the complex. Some of their responsibilities include:
- Making sure everyone adheres to the by-laws set by the body corporate
- Collect fees and levies
- Contact contractors and allocate funds for possible repairs
- Keep records of finances, meetings and a register of all lot owners and body corporate members.
For those who don’t want or can’t handle the added responsibility of managing a building but are still interested in purchasing an apartment, hiring a strata manager can be a great solution.
3. What does a strata title mean, and is it the same as the community title?
Although they sound similar, there are some key differences between the two. First, community titles usually refer to properties such as gated estates or development lots, i.e. properties that share infrastructure and services. While in a strata scheme, each lot owner contributes equally to the body corporate, with a community title, every property has defined and surveyed boundaries and each owner pays fees according to the size of the lot.
Insurance is another key difference—strata corporations have building and public liability insurance that covers the entire complex, whereas owners of community title properties do not have to insure the buildings of other lot owners.