A concept that was created only fifty years ago, strata management is now used for about two hundred and fifty thousand property schemes across millions of lots, and it accounts for more than half of residential sales in Australia. But what are strata properties, exactly? It is a way of managing properties where an individual can own just a part of it, called a “lot”, with the rest of it having shared ownership by a legal entity called a body corporate, or strata company. A large number of retail lots are now strata titled and the number is only increasing, so what are they doing right?
It’s more affordable
Because there is no land involved when purchasing, a strata title is way more affordable to the average person than a regular lot purchase. If you’re looking for a single bedroom or double bedroom apartment, in this arrangement it’ll cost just a fraction of the price of a house with a backyard, for example. This is very attractive to lower-income households looking to get into the property market.
Another benefit is the massively lower cost of utilities such as water and electricity. Power also has a reduced price, but a master meter has to be installed to measure consumption for the whole building. The strata company employs a third party to charge a lower rate and then has the choice to reduce every occupants’ bill and retain the difference between retail and wholesale price.
2. Lower maintenance
Apartments are the most common types of strata titles, and they are often less maintenance-heavy than their house counterparts. Living in an apartment means you don’t have to maintain a garden or lawn, which drastically reduces water prices, as a bonus. If you still prefer having a garden, you can always make a smaller alternative on your balcony.
Building maintenance is handled by the strata company. In other property situations, you would need to hire any number of local service professionals. Here, if you need any repairs, you just ring your body corporate and they are obligated to come up with a solution to solve the issue. As you are a member of the body, you can also influence how maintenance is supposed to be handled.
3. Strata executive committee
Body corporate is an incorporated body, as the name suggests, and the lot owners in a strata scheme are part of the corporation. The committee pays bills, effects insurance, keeps the books and records in order, creates meetings, and has all manner of regulatory roles in the strata complex. Body corporate has its own legislation and rules that exist to ensure that the lot owners are well taken care of and that all the papers are in order.
As all lot owners are also members of the committee, any and all of the decisions made have to also go through you and your close neighbors. Together you make decisions regarding the common property between you. The common property is everything that does not include individually owned lots. As a team, you’ll likely solve issues regarding your living spaces better than an externally owned council. Should any complex issues arise, strata advisors like Michael Teys will work with property owners and managers, to help navigate these issues successfully.
Strata schemes have special legislation that governs how they are run. Government regulations are the backbone and decide how lot owners are treated by the body corporate as a whole. The Strata Management Legislation Amendment Act 2008, for example, made certain changes that streamlined strata management in Northern Beaches and the whole of Sydney within the corporations. Strata buyers became better protected from very unfavorable contracts.
They are also governed by their own by-laws which the committee votes on. These can affect anything from the hallway of the building to the parking lot and rules of parking. This is also very much in the interest of the lot owners.
Internal disputes are rough for property management groups. Homeowners associations often struggle with what changes have to be made, how to deal with repairs and other day-to-day questions of running a property. Disputes can be lengthy and many can feel left out of the discussion if the majority sides against them.
Body corporate goes away with this kind of system and hires a mediator to sort things out. The mediator objectively views both sides of the argument and tries to come up with a solution that will hopefully satisfy everyone. The mediator is often from the professional field that is needed to resolve the problem. Whether it’s plumbing issues, insurance matters, building management or other issues, the mediator will at the very least lend a helping hand to resolve disputes.
Strata is a growing alternative to classic property management, one that has both pros and cons. If you are interested in buying a cheaper place for yourself and don’t mind cooperation with your neighbors, strata might just be the choice for you. But before you make any hasty decisions, do some research on the type of property you feel like purchasing, and perhaps consult a strata management agency for more information.
Liam Smith is a young and aspiring Australian blogger with a passion for everything related to home improvement, design and style. He has a B.Sc. in Interior design and is an avid reader.