06 June 2016 Design features to check when buying off the plan Buying off the plan is becoming an increasingly popular way to buy and sell property. For the buyer, there may be potential tax advantages and stamp duty savings, as well as the benefit of getting in early, locking down the purchase price and then having time to save extra funds. Whilst purchasing off the plan within a new apartment or townhouse complex can be attractive, there are number of considerations that prospective buyers should be mindful of, such as the design of the property. There are robust building regulations and codes that provide minimum standards for apartments. However, these are only the legally required minimums and do not necessarily set a benchmark for good design. Good design improves liveability – the way we live in, use and experience the buildings we inhabit. Here are 7 important design features you need to consider when buying off the plan: Size Drawings on a page or even a 3D ‘walkthrough’ will only give you a feel for the size. Ask for the dimensions or detailed scale drawings, so you can measure it out at home and make a comparison with what you have now. If you’re unsure, asking an expert such as an architect to help you understand the size is an excellent option. Light A good amount of natural light is essential to any home. Ensure that the rooms receive enough natural light at the right part of the day to increase the enjoyment of using them. The Building Code of Australia mandates a minimum size for windows, but careful consideration into how and when the room will be used may suggest a larger window than mandated by the Code is required. Remember, even a bathroom benefits from natural light! Natural light is also an offset for electrical lighting – without enough natural light you’ll always be turning on the lights to make the space ‘useful’. Potential for increased energy through windows could also affect heating and cooling costs. Ventilation Operable windows also offer natural air ventilation which may not be an option in high-rise apartment blocks. Be sure to ask how the apartment will be ventilated, regardless of the height. Orientation Apartments generally have limited opportunity to receive natural light from more than two directions (unlike a house), so consideration of the orientation is critical. East facing will receive ample morning light whilst west facing will receive afternoon sun, including that powerful western sun on a mid-summer’s day! Orientation could also offer views which should be considered in tandem with sunlight. Beware though as not all views are an attraction, particularly if the apartment is adjacent to another apartment block or office building. It will also pay to explore what other developments may be planned nearby in the future as your beautiful views may be obscured by a new development down the track. Acoustics It is also important to investigate the acoustic properties of a building. How has the building been designed to manage noise from outside as well as noise from adjacent properties and apartments above and below? Fittings and finishes Buyers should also be careful about the standard and choice of finishes included. Most developers will present the highest grade finishes in the display suite but are these standard inclusions or optional extras? Check what fittings and fixtures are actually included, such as carpets, window coverings, tiles and kitchen appliance grades. These can vary widely and should be included in the Contract of Sale. Common property Parking, access (vehicle and pedestrian) and additional storage are also important considerations. Look for apartment developments which have a mix of well-designed open and public space and recreational facilities, although consider these in the context of the Body Corporate fees. Do you want to pay for gymnasiums etc… if they are not required? Body Corporate fees will cover such aspects as building maintenance, council and other authority fees, upkeep of common spaces and facilities. Finally, there’s nothing like a ‘referee’ to estimate the quality of a development. Ask the developer for examples of previous work you can visit so that you can gauge the build and design quality. Happy apartment hunting!