Five Tips for Strata Renovations to ensure smooth sailing
With the cost of living up and housing affordability at record lows, investing in strata is the new Australian dream.
It’s easy, it’s super-convenient living, it’s affordable, capital growth is high, and banks seem love to loan to those buying strata-titled properties.
What’s not to love?
Well, one potential downside may be your decision to renovate.
As we’ve reported earlier, there are rules and regs that apply to renovating a strata property that may scare some people off altogether. We’re talking about keeping the body corporate or owners corporation happy, getting your plans approved – and not upsetting the neighbours with all that banging and drilling.
Put off? Don’t be!
Strata properties can be renovated without too much fuss … if you know your stuff. Here are 5 tips to consider:
Know what’s yours
Yep, the owners corporation has jurisdiction – but so do you!
Never forget that while you need to keep some people happy, it’s your place at the end of the day too. Consider the paint on your walls and your floor coverings as absolutely yours – and then go wild in whatever way you like within those boundaries.
This means internal doors, cabinets, vanities and wall coverings – basically anything that’s not ‘common property’ – are all fair game. Have fun!
Just be aware that actually knocking out internal walls may require permission, and you’ll also potentially run into trouble with some types of floor and wall coverings like bathroom tiles and hard floors. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get stuck into that stuff too.
Trust us: when it comes to the strata renovating rules, really know your stuff – and make sure your designers, renovating experts and tradies do too.
Call in the experts
While we’re on the topic of those designers and renovation experts, here’s a hot tip: really use their expertise.
These people who are in the business of making the most of every limited inch of your strata property. It will also be easier to get those approvals over the line.
As we’ve said, when it comes to some of the more significant things you’ve got planned for your strata renovation, you’ll need the go-ahead from the owners corporation or body corporate.
Often, when you get in touch with the owners corporation to let them know you’re considering renovating, providing some official preliminary drawings and plans with a professional letterhead will reassure them that you’re serious about doing things right. This is also the perfect moment to find out if the owners corporation is really going to object to something – this could save you lots of blood, sweat and tears before spending big on more detailed plans.
Don’t be afraid of a big strata renovation
If you’re a strata newbie, you might get some advice from family and friends along the lines of ‘Yes you can renovate, but you can’t do much beyond the kitchen or bathroom’.
Wrong! Ok, getting the go-ahead for more significant renos can be a little complicated, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do things by the book and see how far you can stretch your grand plans.
For instance, replacing a staircase, adding decking, pushing the roof a little higher and moving room usage around. While others have added sunrooms, smashed out grand doorways and totally re-jigged the entire floor plan.
If plans like that sound like you, good on you! Go for it! Just be patient – the approval process can be more like protracted negotiations, and it can take months rather than weeks.
Have a cuppa with the neighbours
Next, we highly recommend that before you start knocking down walls, you knock on your neighbours door and ask them over for a cuppa.
First, coffee with neighbours is just nice. It’s really important to be on-side with your neighbours when you’re renovating – and not just because they might not like you anymore after all that hammering and drilling.
Remember, they’re strata dwellers too, so chances are they’ll understand that putting up with some banging is just part of strata life. However, if you don’t even tell them about your plans or ask what they think, they could put up a barrier in that owners corporation meeting by saying ‘No’ – simply because they don’t fully understand how they’ll be affected.
So reassure them about the timeframe of the renovations – and be honest. Tell them you’ll definitely stick to the guidelines about when you can bang and when you can’t. And ask them if they have some of their own guidelines they’d like you to follow – like letting them have a quiet sleep-in until 10am on Saturday morning. Sounds fair enough.
Check your insurance
And by ‘your insurance’, we mean the insurance of the people who are actually going to be hacking into the building. A building that is commonly owned. You get the picture.
It’s not enough to spot the word ‘insurance’ on the contractor’s website and assume you’re going to be covered for strata renovations. What they actually need is more like public liability insurance.
And if they say ‘Yeah, all good mate’, very politely ask to see their up-to-date certificate of currency. Why’s it so important to check? Because accidents happen, and they can cause big damage and even injury. And if someone makes a claim, it could be you who is on the hook for the bill.
It’s for this reason that we strongly advise that you don’t use your mate-of-a-mate who’s sort of a bit of an amateur handyman to do your bathroom plumbing and waterproofing. Get a plumber. A great plumber. A great plumber who’s not going to hit a pipe.
Finally, update your own insurance. If your renovation adds $50,000 value to your apartment and disaster strikes, you really don’t want to be $50k out of pocket, do you?
So while renovating a strata-titled property means meticulous planning and knowing your stuff, it definitely can be done and it can even be smooth sailing. Good luck and happy strata renovating!