The benefits of buying into apartments, townhouses

By Tameka Gordon Assistant business co-ordinator

Sunday, January 13, 2013

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The changing dynamics of Jamaica's residential real estate market is today reflected in a diverse housing stock. Apartments and townhouses now dot a landscape once dominated by conventional detatched homes. But what exactly are the advantages of buying into these developments?

Arguably, the clearest advantage of investing in apartments and townhouses it that most of them are strata-managed or have citizen associations.

The stipulations of strata managed developments have proven, by the reckoning of some realtors, to be one of the key allures.

"Your investment is protected because of the conditions that exist in a strata managed property," said Anya Levy, an associate of real estate firm Remax.

Levy noted that the clearly defined avenues for redress make these properties suitable for both investors and occupiers alike.

Though not all townhouses are strata managed, those that are so governed, also provide this added benefit.

Under the strata laws, the management of the strata is required to control, manage, and administer the common property for the benefit of all proprietors.

These common areas, which comprise all the shared facilities, must also be kept in good and serviceable states.

Repairs and maintenance of fixtures such as pipes and electrical wiring must also be carried out by the management of the strata.

These repairs are sometimes impeded, however, by the non-payment of maintenance fees by occupants of the units.

But according to Sandra Watson, chief executive officer of the Strata Corporation, the changes to the (Registration) Strata Titles Act has made enforcement much easier.

Impacted by the changing social and economic tides, many communities island-wide have become far less desirable than they were in time past. The status they once held are now replaced with stigmas, which make it very hard for owners to sell or to attract new occupiers.

But, according to Levy, the governance of strata properties acts as a safeguard against this degeneration, thereby shielding the investment and peace of mind of property owners.

Due to economies of scale, an investment in an apartment or townhouse can also allow for easier access to a host of ammenities, including swimming pools and tennis courts. With the pooling of maintenance fees associated with communal spaces, these become more accessible.

"If you own a stand-alone unit, you may not be able to afford a pool or a tennis court," says GM realty's Gregory Mayne.

The deminishing land space to construct houses also makes looking at apartments even more feasible.

"When you create a complex that can house at least 15 families, the highest and best use of the land is maximised," Mayne said, adding that many 'fixer-upper' opportunities currently exist in the market.

Security is also enhanced with these dwelling types. "Owners of stand alone units have to foot the cost of securying the property,but with the shared maintenance costs, security firms can be employed to provide this buffer" Mayne said.

Communal living is however not without its disadvantages. A key investigation of the proposed purchase is highly recommended.

"Ask the strata manager about compliance rate of the occupants because if the requisite fees are not being paid there will be problems for things like security and maintenance," Levy advised.

Engaging the grounds staff, security guards or domestic helpers that work on the property may also yield useful anecdotes, Mayne said.

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