Sydney’s cracking high rise apartments have been making headlines around the world this year.
It all began on Christmas Eve last year, when residents of the newly-built Opal Tower block in Sydney Olympic Park, were forced to evacuate after cracks appeared, sparking fears the building could collapse.
In June, residents living in Mascot Towers had to leave due to cracking in the primary support structure and facade.
The disasters have seen a groundswell of fresh interest in older-style and low-rise apartments.
Agents across Sydney have reported bigger numbers at opens and strong sales results, both at auctions and in private treaty sales.
Benjamin Mulae, of LJ Hooker Avnu Northern Districts, said investing in new or off-the-plan apartments was no longer thought of as the “safe investment” it had been in years gone by.
“Both homeowners and investors are now favouring more established buildings, constructed to a standard often reflected on as the good old days, when things were built to last,” he said.
“These buildings have a documented history, where would-be buyers can perform a search of the strata records and gain insight into any known or recurring issues before they commit.”
Mr Mulae said favoured apartments were often built between 1960 and 2000, and were often easily identified by the strong red, orange, and blonde brick exteriors.
As they were typically two or three-storey walk-ups, they generally did not have lifts, gyms, spas, pools, saunas, tennis courts and large landscaped grounds, meaning strata levies could be as much as one third of the newer apartment complexes.
They also often offer individual lockup garages, compared to the more modern trend of shared undercover parking.
And there is a lot to be said about being able to look carefully into the building’s works history.
“As the property has been established for many years, a savvy buyer can purchase a property with a well-run owners’ corporation that has a healthy sinking fund to pay for future scheduled works and maintenance,” Mr Mulae said.
“We recently sold an apartment in Gladesville that had just had all the windows upgraded, at a cost of $10,000 per apartment. The new buyer got the benefit of this as it was already paid for by the vendor.”
However, he said this also highlighted the need for buyers to exercise plenty of diligence when doing their homework.
“The older buildings will eventually require upgrades to roofing, balconies, windows, and fire safety, so it’s important to look into this before getting too serious on a property,” he said.
Ryde couple Murray and Tina Fleming have experienced first-hand the benefits of living in an established apartment block.
They were won over by apartment living, even though they were originally looking for a freestanding house about eight years ago.
The large apartment at 5/7 Cowell St, Ryde was a game-changer.
“When we stumbled across this apartment we felt like we were walking into a small house not a unit due to its massive size,” Mr Fleming said.
The size paired with low maintenance and value for money ultimately converted us from house hunters to apartment buyers.”
They were also keen on the fact that the apartment was in an established block, along with the size, lower levies and brick construction.
“ We also liked the idea of knowing our neighbours, as it’s a small block, many of whom we are now good friends,” he said.
A need to upsize, due to the addition of a child, now sees them reluctantly selling the apartment.
It’s on the market with a guide of $1 million, through Mr Mulae.
Meanwhile, one of the state’s biggest inquiries into building standards is currently underway.
The NSW Upper House Public Accountability Committee is investigating the regulation of building standards, building quality and building disputes.
The next public hearing will be held on November 5 at Parliament House, in Macquarie Street, Sydney.
This hearing will specifically focus on the draft of the Design and Building Practitioners Bill 2019, that was released by the NSW Government on October 2 for public consultation.
The draft bill introduces reforms in relation to the registration of design practitioners, principal design practitioners and other building practitioners, including the provisions for compliance declarations and duty of care obligations.
Committee chair David Shoebridge said there would be another hearing on December 11, to “focus on the highly concerning issue of flammable cladding”, followed by more hearings next year.