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The must-have features you need in an off-the-plan apartment

By Shayna Builder

If you’ve ever been tempted by the glossy marketing brochures and online presentations that come hand-in-hand with new developments, don’t take the pretty pictures at face value.

It’s important to know what you do and don’t need in your new apartment before committing to an off-the-plan purchase.

Owner-occupier vs investor
Buying off-the-plan was once the domain of investors, but there’s been a backflip in recent years, with more owner-occupiers in the market, including a large cohort of downsizers on the prowl for larger apartments.

Open-plan living is great, but make sure you define your areas clearly.

For those buying to live in, size is a priority, and there’s often demand for higher-end fixtures and fittings.

For investors, Adviseable buyer’s agent Alex Dutt suggests speaking to local property managers to find out what the rental market wants.

“You’ll want to find out who are the likely renters and what configuration is most in demand,” he said.

A living room that transitions seamlessly to an outdoor area is increasingly sought-after.

Size and floorplan
The proposed floorplan details the layout and sizes of individual rooms, and buyers need to be familiar with the typical sizes of units in their chosen location, according to Mr Dutt.

“The sizes of new units in Sydney will be different from those in Brisbane,” he said.

Less obvious on the floor plan is the ceiling height. Managing director of 360° Property Group John Meagher said developers often drop the ceiling height to fit more apartments into a development. Mr Meagher said the minimum ceiling height is 2.65 metres, and the higher the better.

Modern surfaces and high-end appliances appeal to both owner-occupiers and investors.

He also encourages buyers to closely examine the shapes of rooms. Long, narrow living spaces can have cave-like qualities and limit furniture configurations. Bedrooms should have enough space to be able to walk around a queen-size bed.

“In the interests of better resale value, you want the flexibility to accommodate a couple or a single person of any age,” he said.

Functional floorplans are another key ingredient, according to Tim Abbott, director of Ray White Projects Lower North Shore. “A well-thought-through floor plan won’t have a lot of wasted space,” he said.

Outdoor space and aspect
Planning regulations dictate minimum requirements for outdoor space and solar access, but for many buyers the minimum isn’t enough.

Mr Meagher said a northerly aspect remains the ideal, with balconies or courtyards large enough to seat friends and family around a table.

He also recommends looking at what landscaping is included as part of the design, and whether there will be a tap and gas points.

Mr Abbott said views are always in demand, and while ocean or park views are likely to up the asking price, a pleasant outlook over the neighbourhood will deliver more potential buyers or tenants.

Parking spaces
New developments are often centred around transport corridors, so buyers can count on using public transport rather than private vehicles, however most still prefer at least one car space.

“If you’re in a busy metropolitan location without street parking, it can be more critical,” Mr Abbott said.

But while car lifts and stackers can save space, these configurations can push strata levies up and cause mini traffic jams, according to Mr Meagher. “A driveway directly into basement parking is still the best option,” he said.

Storage solutions
Downsizers are often coming from a big house to an apartment and will bring all their accumulated belongings with them, Mr Abbott said.

Ample storage is essential both inside the apartment and alongside parking. Mr Meagher said there was a trend towards walk-in pantries, larger linen cupboards and drop-zones for work paraphernalia with phone and laptop charging points.

Apartment fit-out
Engineered floorboards, large-format tiles, stone benchtops and European appliances still headline many off-the-plan offerings.

Experts agree that these finishes appeal to both owner-occupiers and investors and tend to stand up well to wear and tear, helping a property to maintain value over the long term.

Communal facilities
Pools and gyms in small developments will add substantially to strata levies. In larger developments, it’s best to discuss with local property managers the likely demand for these features.

“Because the costs are quite high for those items, people [in small buildings] prefer not to have them, instead using local facilities with their own private membership,” Mr Abbott said.

Mr Dutt suggested investors should target smaller, boutique blocks to avoid anything “that can break”, including lifts.

An exception is the rooftop garden, according to Mr Abbott, which is proving increasingly popular as an extension of private living space with the potential of an elevated outlook.

Other valuable apartment inclusions
Adequate sound-proofing between apartments
Double-glazed windows, particularly if a development is close to a busy road
Attractive, functional lobbies in higher-end developments
Car washing and car charging bays
Security features including video-intercom, retina security, number plate recognition
Broadband access

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