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What to look out for when buying a townhouse or apartment

The traditional kiwi dream of a three bedroom house on a quarter acre section is fading into the past. Things are changing in the property market.

Firstly, many of those quarter acre sections don't even exist in any more. They have instead been replaced with higher density housing on smaller sections. And with the average house price continuing to climb, townhouses and apartments are becoming the more realistic option for a lot of first home buyers and investors.

Townhouses and apartments tend to be more affordable than a standalone home. Often they are more centrally located and offer a “lock up and leave” convenience.

But with the benefits come considerations. There are some things to consider when purchasing a unit as opposed to a house. Let’s take a look at them now...

Body corporates: every unit development has a body corporate. You will automatically become a member of it when you purchase a townhouse or apartment. The body corporate has responsibility for any financial, administrative, and general management of the common property. As an owner and a member, you also have to pay additional fees to the body corporate every year.

Most body corporates will contract a managing agency to take care of day-to-day matters. These agencies assist with organising maintenance for shared areas of the property, arranging meetings and AGM’s for the body corporate, and taking care of financial matters.

Security measures: if you are living in a large complex with a lot of neighbours, there will always be people coming and going. Make sure to enquire about the security of the building.

Most apartment buildings will have either electronic swipe cards/keys or a pin pad with a security code. Swipe keys are a more reliable form of security, as people will often share the pin codes with family and friends who come to visit. Pin codes will get changed occasionally to enhance security but it is usually only once every few months.

You will also want to check on extra security measures in the shared spaces and doorways, such as security cameras.

Issues with common or shared spaces: any damage or maintenance to shared spaces has to be dealt with through the body corporate. Depending on how well the body corporate runs, it can take a long time to get these sorts of matters solved, especially if there is any dispute over which owners or tenants were responsible for any damage.

The neighbours: the neighbourhood is a consideration for buying any type of property, but when you are looking at a unit you should pay particular attention to who might be living next door. You are in very close quarters with your neighbours, especially in apartment blocks.

It is worth enquiring about the other people you will be sharing the building with. You might want to check if it is mainly owner/occupiers and families.

If you are looking at a townhouse, enquire about your neighbours. If there are small backyards or courtyards, ask about whether or not they have pets. A barking dog outside your window all the time is less than ideal!

The location of the unit: if you are particularly sensitive to noise, a ground floor unit might not be the best option for you. You’ll get more noise from the upstairs neighbours and will most likely be quite close to the road.

It is also good to do some research about the positioning of the unit and whether it will get decent sun. It might be that the apartment is tucked away in a shady corner, or the townhouse next door blocks out all the light!

There are always things to consider when choosing any home, but these are some of the main things to look at if you are considering a townhouse or an apartment. If you are confused about the process, definitely check in with your real estate agent as they will be able to give you more information on any of the points mentioned above.

Disclaimer As with all our blogs, the information detailed here is general in nature and meant as a preliminary guide only. This should not be substituted for your own investigations or use of your own professional’s. Planning Plus is not liable for any errors or omissions.

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