Sunday, March 7, 2010

Selecting a 2 bed apartment

I am often asked what to look for when buying an apartment in Brisbane. Here are some general rules of thumb and issues to consider.
  • How many apartments are in the building in total? If there are more than 200 apartments in the building, my opinion is that the building is too big. This creates many issues. One problem is that if you try to sell or rent your apartment, you will be competing with too many other apartments in the building. And there will be too many people using the shared facilities.
  • How many elevators in the building, and what is the ratio of elevators to apartments. Moreover, the higher the building, the more elevators are needed. For some of the better buildings in Brisbane, there are 32 or 38 or 44 apartments per elevator. This is good. So using these ratios, a building with 400 apartments should have 9 to 12 elevators.
  • How many apartments per floor? A larger floor plate usually results in a less friendly building and more security issues. I think that 6 apartments per floor is a good number.
  • Is there a pool, gym and common room?
  • Where is the building located? Avoid main roads and highways.
  • Is there an onsite and live-in manager.
  • How much money is in the building sinking fund. For a large building, this would typically be more than $500,000 (depending on age and size). A new building has a smaller sinking fund, and should have less problems.
For a two bedroom apartment, here are some additional considerations:
  • What is the total internal size? Anything less than 85 sqm internal is too small for a two bedroom. There are good two bedroom apartments in Brisbane where the internal size is over 100 sqm.
  • What is the total size, including balcony? This should be at least 95sqm. Here are some typical sizes of good 2 bed apartments in Brisbane that I have looked at recently - 132 sqm, 116 sqm, 128 sqm, 119 sqm. I would avoid any apartment without a balcony. (I saw a new Mirvac apartment on the Gold Coast that was 150 sqm internal, plus a 25 sqm balcony.)
  • What is the width of the living room. Ideally, the living room should be at least 4 metres wide. A typical living room is 4m wide x 6m depth.
  • A corner or floor-thu apartment will usually have better breezes and more light.
  • Do all bedrooms have windows?
  • Each bedroom should be at least 3m by 3.2m in size, plus built in wardrobe. Ideally, the main bedroom should have a wall that is at least 4m long.
  • What is the external length of the apartment? This determines how much natural light the apartment will have. A good two bedroom apartment will have an 11 metre frontage, or more. (This is typically 4m for the living room, and 2 bedrooms of at least 3m each.) A two bedroom apartment in Admiralty Towers has a 12.3 m frontage on one side, which is great, plus another 7m down the side of the apartment -- a real bonus. I saw a 2 bedroom apartment recently that had only 7.7m frontage -- not enough -- the second bedroom was dark! A corner apartment or floor-thu apartment will have much more external frontage. For example, a corner two bedroom apartment at Parklands Sherwood has a 16.7 m frontage. Keep in mind that 1m makes a big difference here.
  • Does the apartment have an internal laundry & store room in the apartment, or is the laundry in a cupboard?
  • How many storage and linen and broom cupboards? Some apartments have none!
  • Is the floor plan well designed. Not too much wasted space (e.g., hallways). Ideally, I like the bedrooms to be separated.
  • What are the views, and could the views be built out?
  • What floor? A higher floor is usually better, but not always. In the downtown area, try to be above the 6th floor at least.
  • Two bathrooms are better than one bathroom. Some two bed apartments in Brisbane have two ensuites, plus a powder room for guests.
  • Is there a both a shower and a bath?
  • Does the apartment have a car park allocated to it. An apartment without a carpark is much harder to sell or rent. Sometimes, but rarely, a two bedroom apartment will have two carparks.
  • Is there extra storage (for example, in the basement) allocated to the apartment.
  • What are the quality of the finishes. See this post.
Not all apartments will be super apartments, and sometimes compromises have to be made. Price is also relevant! A two bed apartment for $450,000 will not be as good as a two bed apartment for $725,000! Or at least, I would hope so. So also look at price per sqm when comparing apartments.

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