Buying a unit is a great way to increase your investment portfolio or purchase a relatively maintenance-free property to suit your personal needs. Units are also a lot more affordable than buying a free-standing home. So as you peruse the real estate pages, seeking out the apartment to suit your requirements, here are five things to consider.

Strata title

When you purchase a unit or town-house, you are purchasing one component of a larger complex which means you are part of a strata title.  At settlement of your property you will receive a Title for your Lot and you become a joint owner of the complex’s common property.

Body corporate

As a unit owner you will automatically become part of the body corporate, which gives you the right to vote on issues affecting the complex at regular body corporate meetings. It will also mean you pay annual body corporate fees to look after the maintenance and repairs of the site.

Prior to purchase you should investigate what these fees are, any fee increases pending, and upcoming plans or maintenance issues that may incur extra costs. These can include items like repainting the entire building, resurfacing the pool or retiling the barbecue area.

You should also check the financial position of the body corporate before you commit to buying. Has it borrowed any money or does it have any outstanding legal claims against it?

Ongoing maintenance

The body corporate is usually responsible for the ongoing maintenance of areas like the building’s exterior, car parks and other common areas. They usually have an annual budget for such works and a fund for upcoming larger maintenance items.

The body corporate committee will generally be responsible for overseeing these matters, with major issues discussed and voted on at body corporate meetings.

Before you buy your unit it’s worth ascertaining if there is a complex manager on site who handles the maintenance, whether jobs are outsourced and how works are conducted.

Renovations and rules

As your unit is part of a greater property there may be rules applied to what you can do inside and outside your individual unit. In addition to the state legislation each body corporate will have their own by-laws that may determine how works can be undertaken, how they should look and who can do them.

That means if you have plans for renovations, you need to check these rules and seek the permission of the body corporate first. The best approach is to contact your body corporate manager for advice on the work you propose to carry out before you begin. Your manager will be able to tell you whether you need approval for what you are proposing, and whether that approval can be granted by the committee, or must be approved by the body corporate as a whole via a general meeting.

The last word

Buying a unit can prove an excellent investment for now and into the future. Like any large purchase you should do your homework first to understand what’s involved after settlement.