How much do you really need to spend on an apartment?

How much do you really need to spend on an apartment?
Olivia RoundFebruary 17, 2020

When you buy an item of clothing, there are often many considerations you take into account before reaching the cashier. How the garment fits, the style, quality, price, ethics of its production, if there are any sales/discounts available and even whether you need it. The same thought process is applicable when purchasing property. 

You'll want to think about:

  • Whether the home suits your lifestyle
  • Whether you like what the property/apartment building offers
  • If the quality of the building is up to your standards
  • Whether the property value falls within your price point
  • How far you'll need to travel to get to your new home
  • If it's the right time for you to purchase a home
  • What concessions and savings could you be eligible for?

With this in mind, we've outlined some key considerations you might like to mull over when deciding how much you really need to spend on your dream home, as well as some savvy ways you can save money. 

Purchase the right configuration

How much do you really need to spend on an apartment?

Buying an unbuilt, off-the-plan property can give you a great deal of flexibility to customise your home to meet your needs. Each square metre of a house can cost you thousands, so it's worth assessing how much space you want, versus how much space you need. If you rarely have guests to stay, you could instead purchase a decent futon sofa, rather than a whole extra bedroom. However, if you're regularly welcoming friends, family or Airbnb guests to stay, then a spare bedroom could be a worthwhile investment.

In recent years, the population of Australian cities is rapidly increasing, which is prompting a rise in both apartment construction, and apartment purchases. In our feature about the shift to smaller footprint living, we asked architect Nicholas Gurney, what this meant for Australian homes and their inhabitants. 

"A reduction is positive. There is something very satisfying about inhabiting spaces without surplus or excess and this can only be experienced through positive change. The obvious benefits of more quality time and less financial burden are obvious advantages."

Nicholas Gurney, Principal at Nicholas Gurney Architects

While many buyers feel that they need lots of space "just in case", or because it's what they are used to, you may find that smaller footprint living could lead to a more stress-free, low maintenance lifestyle. If you look for a smaller home, you could free up your budget for optional upgrades, or a house closer to the city.

Opt for a home with flexible spaces

How much do you really need to spend on an apartment?

Many new apartments and townhouses feature an ergonomic design in response to our modern lifestyles. Workspaces are seamlessly integrated within living spaces to accommodate residents who work remotely, while we've also seen a shift in laundry facilities moving from in-house to communal areas. Flexibility within the home is excellent for both space-saving and cost-saving.  

Pay close attention to the number of on-site amenities

How much do you really need to spend on an apartment?

If you follow the rule, "the more amenities, the higher the strata levies" then you're less likely to receive a shock when your strata or body corporate fees start rolling in. Each amenity costs the property owner maintenance fees, so if you're trying to stick to a tight budget, avoid viewing facilities as 'perks' of apartment living. However, if you're going to get a lot of use out of the swimming pool and gymnasium, then purchasing an apartment with these inclusions will mean you can cancel any auxiliary fitness memberships. Effectively making your strata/body corporate fees work in your favour.

Weigh up the cost of commute versus the value of the property

How much do you really need to spend on an apartment?

Doing a weekly transport budget is a great way to assess how much extra money you could have to fork out each week to get to the places you visit most. These could include your workplace, the city or family and friend's houses. For example, you may find your dream home 20 kilometres out of town. While the upfront cost of a home closer to the city may have a higher asking price, it could work out equally cost-effective once you evaluate commuting costs. Alternatively, you may discover that you get more value for your money by purchasing a home further out of the city, but at least you have weighed up all options and arrived at a decision that's right for you. There's nothing worse than worrying, "what if...?", so it's always a good idea to research all options, so you feel confident with your purchase. 

Look beyond aesthetics + invest in quality

How much do you really need to spend on an apartment?

Interior aesthetics have the power to charm a buyer and encourage them to overlook any underlying issues within the development. It's your responsibility as the buyer to look beneath the surface and find out whether the property meets your standards. Superficial features can always be changed, refreshed and upgraded. However, the structural, built features of an apartment or townhome are far more challenging and costly to retrofit. 

Save yourself the stress by undergoing thorough due diligence, asking the sales agent lots of questions and acquiring as much paperwork as you can. A structurally sound, well-built house is probably worth investing more money in than one that looks nice on paper. If buying off plans, you can research the track record of the developer, builder and architect to ensure you're happy with their previous work.

"The tendency to get too far ahead and caught up with the aesthetics of a property often distracts people from considering other essential points. Savvy buyers think beyond the home. What is the local council like and how do their services measure up? How has the suburb been trending in the past few years? How is the home positioned and what are the neighbours like? Are their good schools nearby? Is there adequate public transport? Are there infrastructure or building development plans near the property?" 

Macquarie Bank, First Home Buyer Mistakes

In general, quality is not something you'll want to sacrifice. By paying more for higher quality fixtures and fittings, or a home with better insulation and glazing will mean you'll pay more upfront but could enjoy savings long-term. More energy-efficient homes are also continuing to provide homeowners with significant utility bill savings.

Utilise concessions/grants

How much do you really need to spend on an apartment?

Buying off-the-plan can come with several financial benefits, the first being the ability to purchase with a low deposit of often just 5%. In addition to the low deposit, many first home buyers may be eligible for a new home government grant, which, depending on the state you're buying in, could be around $10,000. Stamp duty savings are also often available for purchases of brand new off-the-plan homes, so it can be very beneficial to research all options before purchasing a new home.

For more information, you may find our comprehensive state by state guides useful:

Olivia Round

Olivia Round is the Features Editor of Olivia specialises in news reporting, in-depth editorial content and video + podcast interviews with industry experts.

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