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My Real Estate Mate summer reading series: Purchasing off the plan apartments

New off the plan apartments are increasingly becoming the first choice for first home buyers, owner occupier and investors. Buying off the plan property is very different to established property offering apartments to purchasers prior to construction commencing.

Since launching the Apartment Register platform, My Real Estate Mate clients regularly ask us ‘how do I buy an apartment off the plan?’ So we thought it would be a good idea to guide you through the process, give you some peace of mind and save you some time and effort.

Let’s kick off with why the way we live has evolved from the family home on a quarter acre block to a higher density level of living, namely apartment developments. The explanation revolves around three key elements:

  1. Affordability
  2. Embrace vertical living lifestyle
  3. Household dwelling numbers

Affordability

The accumulation of capital - while an advantage for those who already own a property - means the affordability of an off the plan apartment comes down to you having enough money saved to pay a 10% deposit. Increasingly an individual's earning capacity has not kept up with mortgage repayments, so you have to spend more on a property than you would have had to say 10 years ago to get a comparable product.

Embrace vertical living lifestyle

We are increasingly time poor and as such want a ‘lock and leave lifestyle’ that is, a lifestyle requiring minimal household maintenance. Why mow the lawn when you can walk to and play in the local park? Increasing work commute time means we are spending more time in traffic or on the train than doing the things we enjoy. New York City, London and Hong Kong are apartment living cities. That is, living in a house is a rarity, we are simply heading in the same direction.

Household dwelling numbers

Population dynamics are changing. The number of dwellings has had to increase to cater for the increasing number of single households. Divorce, downsizing and aged care rates all of which are increasing mean more dwellings are required to accommodate everyone.

Let’s live skyward, yes indeed now remember that everyone’s selection criteria are different. This is why we say to our Apartment Register clients that while family and friends are everyone’s first port of call for advice in actual fact everyone’s circumstances are different therefore everyone’s selection criteria are different. Keep in mind what type of buyer you are and your considerations.

First home buyer

Are you buying your first property? The First Home Owner Grant (FHOG) scheme was introduced on 1 July 2000 to offset the effect of the GST on home ownership. It is a national scheme funded by the states and territories and administered under their own legislation.

Under the scheme, a one-off grant is payable to first home owners that satisfy all eligibility criteria. The Grant amounts vary from state to state and can change, so ensure you have the most up to date amount that will assist your purchase and the criteria to ensure you are abiding by the regulations. At time of writing, the current FHOG for Victoria is $10,000 on new off the plan property up to $750,000 in value. You must live in the property for 12 months continuously within 12 months of settlement.

Owner-occupier

An emotional buying decision reflecting suburb, size and type of the product to house the family but also financial relating to purchase price and affordability. School zones are increasingly becoming a driver for owner occupiers with areas such as Balwyn: Victoria's tightly held suburb with consistent capital growth due to Balwyn High School being one of the top public schools in the state. The advantage of an apartment within that school zone is that the chances are it will be cheaper than a house.

Investor

Investors will be driven by the mathematics of the purchase being either rental yield, depreciation or capital accumulation. My Real Estate Mate reviews all new off the plan apartment calculations with our clients prior to purchase, ensuring revenue and expenses such as body corporate and insurance are analysed.

Downsizing or retirement

A lifetime of accumulation may require to have ample cupboard space for storage or be close to the lift for ease of carrying shopping bags or golf clubs! Downsizing and aged care buyers often forget how expensive it is to sell their current residence and the cost to enter a new residence. Stamp duty saving minuses this trade in/trade out cost and is one of the advantages of off the plan apartments.

International buyer (FIRB)

International purchaser: if you do not have Australian residency you will need to apply to purchase the apartment from the Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB).

In our next article, we address the steps in the process towards buying a new off the plan apartment with Apartment Register. If you have any questions, you can contact My Real Estate Mate through Apartment Register on Urban Melbourne and we will be in contact straight away.

Cameron Clarke is licensed real estate agent and managing director of My Real Estate Mate and Apartment Register; a joint venture partner of Alamar AV Communications Pty Ltd, publisher of Urban Melbourne. Each Saturday over summer Cameron will provide provide commentary and tips on all things apartments.

Cameron's published commentary is not designed to be taken as financial advice and should you wish to register with Apartment Register, Urban Melbourne strongly recommends registrants consider their financial position and do their own research before entering into contracts for sale.

Lead image courtesy Yardi.

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