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AU Devil's in the strata detail

Property Here - Monday, May 06, 2013

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A GOOD deal on an apartment close to the city is rare enough, but rapidly rising strata levies are also costing unsuspecting buyers thousands more.

Often overlooked as a minor detail compared with the purchase price, strata fees can set owners back more than $10,000 a year in some cases, especially complexes full of amenities.

"Newer buildings cater for higher-income purchasers and include state-of-the-art facilities,'' said Scott Aggett of Belle Property Surry Hills.

"Saunas, spas, swimming pools, gymnasiums and lifts are mod cons that certainly put the strata levies up. A 24-hour concierge, it might cost the equivalent of two or three full-time salaries.

"If you were looking at a modern apartment block without those facilities, with the same size and number of apartments, you could save 30 to 40 per cent on the levies. You can pay $2000 a quarter for a newer two-bedroom apartment with the facilities, which might mean an extra $750 a quarter than one without.''

And levies are likely to continue to rise, with newly built apartments adding more and more features.

"Over the last 10 years, buyers have been prepared to pay a premium so that everything is at their fingertips,'' Mr Aggett said.

"Everyone is time-poor and wants facilities like a pool or gym close to them.''

Buyers looking to reduce unnecessary costs should be realistic about what facilities they need.

Aaron and Jaime Strudwick had considered buying in the Erskineville apartment block where they rented, until they realised the facilities would add significant costs.

"It's a wonderful estate but we rarely use the facilities,'' Mr Strudwick said.

Instead, the couple purchased an off-the-plan two-bedroom apartment at the nearby Leighton Properties development Erko at Erskineville.

Strata records should also be checked to ensure the building does not have ongoing or pending issues.

"Research the building and check whether it has a history of disputes and what the budget is like,'' said Rhys Bollen, Fair Trading NSW assistant commissioner.

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