In this week’s Purchase or Pass segment we take a look at buying any unit in Queensland, as there’s some debate about what it could cost you in the future. In September this year a bill was introduced into Parliament to amend the Body Corporate and Community Management Act of 1997, and public comment closed today. It's related to how strata fees are allocated in unit blocks and if they could be changed after being originally set up.
Say if you owned a $500,000 two-bed unit on the ground floor with no aspect and you used the pool or the gym, should you pay the same price to use it as someone with someone with the same sized unit but worth $5 million on the 100th floor?
John Edwards: Yes, I think they should if they were both one-bedroom or the same number of people were living in it. If you’ve got a one-bedroom penthouse and a one-bedroom unit on the ground floor obviously only one or two people can live in both of those and should pay the same amount of money.
Chris Gray: And if you owned the $5,000,000 unit and wanted you windows washed every week to enjoy your ocean view should you pay the same strata fees as the guy on the ground floor who is happy to wash them himself and doesn’t use the lift?
John Edwards: No they shouldn’t. It doesn’t make sense. Effectively the higher premium $5 million property was part of it was to do with the view. We can forget about the view, but what we ought to be focusing on is the real cost of maintaining the top floor unit and the ground floor unit. Obviously it’s very easy to wash your own windows on the ground floor.
Chris Gray: Let’s say the strata fees were set at $5,000 per year for the ground floor unit and $50,000 per year for the top unit when you bought them off the plan. If the top unit managed to overturn the strata fees and get them all done more fairly from his perspective maybe they all then pay $15,000. The top unit owner has his reduced by a third, but the bottom owner has his tripled. It’s suddenly a massive nightmare, isn’t it?
John Edwards: The only people who are really going to get hurt in this process are the actual owner-occupiers. The rest of us who are investors probably ought not to be investing in an apartment block that has all of these facilities so we shouldn’t be straddled, and I’d make the point that there are dozens and dozens of apartment blocks that are small in places like Brisbane that just don’t have these issues. I don’t think we should be saying don’t get involved in units in Brisbane, I think we should just simply say this is a rational situation that is going to exist. Where we’ve got very extravagant blocks of units with all the amenities that can possibly go there. I think the judge should be very well briefed.
Chris Gray: If you have bought into a strata and there is an issue like this tabled in the annual general meeting minutes – is that likely to put off potential buyers and make it very hard for sellers to onsell their units?
John Edwards: You’re going to have great difficulty in selling that apartment, unfortunately.
Chris Gray: One of the lessons is if you are going to get into this then potentially buy the penthouse because if anything your fees are going to reduce.
John Edwards: But Chris, we're not you.
Chris Gray: So is that purchase or pass?
John Edwards: For me, no, because I wouldn’t have been involved as an investor buying those sorts of units in the first place.
Chris Gray: For me I’d purchase as normal. The laws are constantly changing, the laws are only being talked about now so we’re not definitely sure about what’s happening. For me I’d purchase as normal and unless anything else comes out I certainly wouldn’t change my mind.
Chris Gray is a buyers' agent at Empire. He is host of Your Property Empire on Fridays on the Sky News Business Channel.
He will appear periodically on Property Observer posing and answering investment questions on select propositions.