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Buying into problems

The right manager could make all the difference when it comes to choosing your new apartment

When you're buying a new apartment, even when you've sorted out the basics - like location, size, style and price - you're still faced with a bewildering array of choices.

But if you are looking at apartments in a large block, a good way of narrowing the field is to check out what kind of manager they have.

There are four options:
* a residential caretaker/manager
* a manager owned by or allied to the developer
* an independent manager
* no manager.

Strata Managers, by the way, are completely different animals who have little to do with the day-to-day running of a building.

Caretaker Managers are usually resident in the building and will almost certainly have paid a lot of money for a long-term management rights contract. Having said that, a few are residents who have taken over the role of managers because they have the time and experience (God bless 'em) but they are in the minority.

Those "super-neighbours" aside, Caretaker Managers probably work best in blocks where most apartments are for rent since letting apartments is also often part of their deal. But if you are buying an apartment as your home, rather than an investment, you may be less comfortable in a block where someone runs it as their business.

If the building manager is a subsidiary or "mate" of the developer, you have to ask who they are serving - the developers or you? This is especially crucial when the block is running out of time (currently seven years) to get defects identified and fixed by the developer.

If you are thinking of buying into a block managed by the developer, check that the Executive Committee's records show a realistic defects rectification programme, otherwise, you could end up paying to fix the builders' shoddy work.

The best thing about independent building managers is that they are usually on short-term contracts that can be terminated if they're not doing a good job. For resident owners who want to have a big say in how their buildings are run, this is by far the best way to go.

Finally, there's the "no manager" option but in today's huge apartment blocks that's a false economy that no one can really afford.

First published SMH July 2007