What happens outside your front door?
Posted by Dino Biordi
Remember how you felt when you looked at the beautiful brochure for an apartment that caught your eye? Did you see photos or artist impressions displaying the magnetic street appeal of front courtyard landscaping and an architectural entryway, and renders of an immaculate lobby with a distinctive touch of glamour?
Fast-forward to today – did it live up to the promise? How do you feel as you turn in off the street to arrive home?
For too many apartment buyers, the glossy first impression does not last. Cracks appear in concrete, paint gets chipped, oil stains decorate the carparking pavement, blown litter collects in the shrubbery and the bins… well. You know what I’m talking about.
It dims the glow of ownership somewhat when the areas outside your front door are not up to your personal standards. In some ways, it even defeats the purpose many people have when they buy into a strata building.
The promise of strata living is low-maintenance, low-worry, lock-and-leave freedom to get on with life, knowing that the community areas are cared for and a source of both pleasure and pride. It’s not your job to do the weeding, fix the guttering, polish windows in the lobby, mow the lawn, clean the pool or wash down the footpaths.
And for many downsizers, or for people with busy professional lives or those who simply don’t enjoy outdoor chores, when it works it is brilliant. Let me tell you – it is OK to NOT enjoy outdoor chores! Strata living is supposed to let you outsource all that stuff so you can do what really matters to you and have more time for the things that do give you joy.
If it’s not your job – who’s is it?
The complication when the common property is not being looked after is not only is it not the job of an individual apartment owner to fix that, technically, it’s not their property to fix.
What the brochures for strata apartments often don’t explain is that everything outside your front door is common property and belongs to the entire community. You may also not have known before you moved into strata that there is an Owners Committee that is in charge of ensuring common property is maintained, kept in good order and is always clean and safe.
No matter what the real estate agent might have said you were purchasing, when you buy a strata property you are only purchasing the airspace behind the front door. The floors, walls, windows, ceiling – even the front door itself – are owned by the entire strata corporation.
And every inch of the property outside the front door, from the boundary line at the footpath out front to the rear boundary line, and every bit of basement and the roof, are all common property too. So if you feel any of those areas are becoming a bit of a letdown, it is a community problem to fix them.
Did you want ‘Friends’ or just neighbours?
This introduces another aspect of strata living that’s not often discussed, which is the type of community feel you were looking for. Did you want a neighbourly place where everyone knows everyone and there are regular social catchups? Or did you like the idea of always having new people around to connect with and a lively buzz? Maybe you just wanted a quiet, safe home base to return to between adventures?
Strata communities vary enormously so it can be good idea to get a feel for the vibe beforehand.
You can ask around, ask the agent, post a query at the local Facebook neighbourhood group, or look carefully at the common areas to see if there are noticeboards for activities, a common vegetable garden, or ask the agent if the community uses one of the new internal messaging apps or private digital noticeboard or similar. You can also ask to see minutes of the Owners Corporation Committee minutes and get a feel for what kinds of things get discussed.
Quite aside from helping you decide if it’s the right community for you, the reason you want to get a feel for the committee is they are the people who will need to deal with any issues on common property. That includes the little things like dealing with someone’s dog doing its do-do in the garden through to big things like who is going to do all the chores around the place.
Chores are our labour of love
A strata committee usually contracts both a strata manager, who deals with all the legal and financial side of things, and a building manager, who is responsible for making sure common property and building assets are looked after properly.
As building managers, we consider ourselves the architects of your experience from the footpath to the front door. We believe your building matters. That when you come home from the world beyond your front gate, you should feel relaxed, pleased and welcomed. And that when family and friends arrive, you feel proud of the building and landscaping that greets them as they pull up out front.
We believe your building should help you to thrive in your life and not be a source of niggling stresses or major discomfort.
An effective committee working with the right building manager can also give you an opportunity to have a voice. Maybe you have some ideas about how the foyer could be more welcoming? Maybe you’d like to see some plants in the lift lobby, or some flowers and herbs in the garden? Maybe the shared gym should have the option of having music playing? Maybe you just want everything to be cleaner or want to investigate improvements to lighting or think there should be signs urging visitors to use hand sanitiser before jumping in the lift (and also, you’d like the hand sanitiser to be provided for them).
All these things are possible if you get involved with your committee and your committee has appointed a great building manager that listens, pays attention and really cares about the quality of life you and your neighbours experience.
"There is still hope when you hire your Yoda - LUNA".