How to make strata fees work in your favour

How to make strata fees work in your favour
How to make strata fees work in your favour

Did you know that you could learn to love paying strata fees?

Many property seekers will discover their dream home, in the perfect location, within their budget, only to find that the annual maintenance fees will set them back an additional $6,000 ($115 per week). That doesn’t have to be the case, and there’s even a trick to making these fees work for you. 

Think of your strata fees as a way of reducing home maintenance, scoring better discounts and a subsidised subscription to your favourite lifestyle facilities.

What strata fees cover

  • Building maintenance (both structurally and aesthetically; and in common areas)
  • Amenity servicing (pools, tennis courts, gyms etc.)
  • Building insurance
  • On-site security, caretaker and/or cleaner
  • Any shared utilities
  • The ‘sinking fund’
  • Management and administration

Administrative & Sinking Funds explained

Administrative Fund

An administrative fund covers the day-to-day outgoing costs associated with running a building. This includes majority of the expenses listed above.

Sinking Fund (sometimes known as the capital works fund)

The sinking fund is a body of cash which is accumulated should an unexpected issue arise. This fund acts as a buffer to provide residents with financial security, to avoid any surprise lump-sum invoices.

What is the Owners Corporation?

Formally known as the 'body corporate', an owners corporation is a collective of homeowners within a residential development who make the financial and maintenance decisions for the building's common property. 

A simple guide to effectively make these fees work in your favour:

1. Bulk buy water and energy to reduce your utility bills

Many new apartments offer residents the option of bulk buying utility services such as electricity and water. This means that an upfront payment will be made at the beginning of the year at a fixed rate, meaning that if there are any cost spikes, residents who have pre-purchased will not be affected. Buying in bulk can also mean discounts can be negotiated with the provider since the client (owners corporation) is such a high-value customer.

How to make strata fees work in your favour

2. Shop around for a competitive insurance rate

As with bulk buying, since there are many home insurance companies in the marketplace, the corporation is able to actively seek the best rate on the market. By joining the owner’s corporation, you are able to advocate for this to be done on a yearly basis. For buyers joining an older apartment development, the first thing you should do is check the insurance premiums and see if you can get a competitive quote elsewhere. 

3. Find an apartment which has the amenities you feel happy to pay for

A lot of buyers are under the impression that amenities are “free perks” which come with an apartment. Each amenity provided within your apartment building comes at a premium. Once you change your perception of the cost of amenities and find an apartment which offers your favourite amenities and none of the ones you’ll never use, you’re more likely to feel confident that your payments are going towards the things that make you happy. 

How to make strata fees work in your favour
The Landmark's golf simulator. Credit: A+ Design Group

4. Give up your gym membership and use your apartment facilities

The cost of gym memberships, movie tickets and spa experiences certainly add up, so by having these amenities included within your apartment building can save you transport time and cost, as well as often significantly reducing your outgoing payments*.

*Depending on your body corporate rates.

5. Speak up at the owner’s corporation meetings

Owners corporations can have a lot of flexibility to get creative when it comes to the financial and social aspects of an apartment building, so long as all residents are in agreeance. You could pitch some cost-saving suggestions which will actively reduce your body corporate bill such as:

  • Sharing a cleaning, gardener and security services with nearby buildings
  • Use energy saver bulbs in communal areas
  • Swap for sensor lights in hallways
How to make strata fees work in your favour

6. Share your repair bills

Any house will require regular maintenance as well as repairs that could set you back thousands of dollars. Investing in a communal ‘sinking fund’ will help to prepare you for funding unexpected remedial work that needs to be done on the building.

7. Prepare yourself for fee inflation

Luxury amenities come at a price, and over the years your body corporate fees are likely to increase with inflation. Double, or even triple your body corporate fees, and if you feel confident that you can cover that rate, then you’ll be well prepared for any increases in future. It's important to note that if you're buying into an older building, sufficient maintenance might not have been completed – which could result in a spike in your annual fees. Similarly, some new apartments will entice buyers with low body corporate rates, only to realise that they need to up the annual levy for long term maintenance sustainability. If you're prepared for this, however, you can enjoy the rates at their lowest, and be comfortable spending a bit more if they increase. 

How to make strata fees work in your favour

Lead image: Ruby apartments in Gungahlin. Credit: Stewart Architects.

Olivia Round

Olivia Round

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

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off-the-plan strata fees owners corporation

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