Sunday, August 5, 2012

Uncertainties, Risks and Body Corporate Fees

I feel that now is probably a good time to buy an apartment in Brisbane.  Prices are down, and there are many good apartments for sale.  However, there are uncertainties that are holding me back:
  • What will happen if the mining boom comes to an end?
  • Will Newman's retrenchment of 20% of the public service kill any chance of growth for the next 3 years?
  • Will Newman increase land tax rates and lower land tax threasolds in Queensland?
  • What will Newman and the Attorney-General do in relation to the complex issues regarding lot adjustments (that impact the percentage of body corporate fees an individual unit owner will pay)?  If I buy now, will the unit entitlements be adjusted up in the near future so that my body corporate fees will increase?  Will there be costly legal action between the body corporate and various interest groups in the buildings.  See here and here for example.  Changes to this are a priority for the government it seems, to reward penthouse owners for voting for the Liberal party.
So, for the time being, there is too much uncertainty and risk to buy an apartment (or an investment property) in Brisbane or Queensland.

Regardless, body corporate fees and council rates are becoming prohibitively high, and make investing in apartments less attractive.

I looked at an older apartment on the river recently.  It has been on the market for more than 6 months.  It is a 2 bedroom (with a small second bedroom), with river views.  The facilities are moderate -- no doorman, onsite manager, reception desk or the like.  The list price has come down, and is now $455,000.  But the body corporate fees are $8,830 a year, and council rates are $2,000 a year.  So more than $10,000 a year in these expenses.  The rent for this apartment would be about $400 a week, or about $365 a week after real estate agent's fees.  So that is 30 weeks, or more than half a year's rent, just to cover body corporate levies and rates!  Clearly, this is not a good investment, even if the price drops another $100,000.

Post-script -- comment from a reader after this post was published:
Your sentiments re purchasing a unit or apartment in Brisbane reflect my own also, very valid points.
Another is upcoming or planned or approved “future” capital works such as painting, under-pinning, structural repairs, landscaping, tree removals and the like. At a number of units I have looked at, the agents got very cagy when put the question. Pressing one very hard got I wind of a complete paint job coming up within 2 years,  approx $250,000k across 80 units, and unit titles re-appropriation may also make some owners rather unhappy as well. Ouch! Another had $30,000K in quotes not yet voted on (but very necessary since drains were becoming repeatedly blocked by roots) for tree removal. Ouch!  Many units 10 years and over now need a lot of work, much of which has been delayed or put back but  it’s coming. New buyers beware.
Article in AFR, 7 August, P38: Newman at a get together of banks and bizo’s was playing pretend Reserve Bank Chief and instructing banks to start lending. Banks won’t (as we all know), denying they should take risks just for Newman et al. Last para of article states : At a meeting of people from the big four banks recently, one person from one of the big four proclaimed  “We’re not lending anything into Northern Australia. Northern Australia begins at Nundah in Brisbane.”

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