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Flat Chat

Talkin' 'bout a renovation

Renovating an apartment is quite different from renovating a house but in ways that are not immediately obvious. And you don't want to discover that when you're halfway through the project and all work is suddenly halted - because you failed to ask permission from the Executive Committee (EC) of your building and its members are annoyed and have decided to play hardball.

You can save yourself a lot of grief - during and after your renovation - if you follow these basic rules. One: apply for permission. Two: find out what conditions there are on the work you've just been given permission to do. Three: get your neighbours onside so they don't change their minds about rules one and two. And four: choose a builder, company or tradesperson who's worked in an apartment before.

Most people realise major works require local council consent, but many don't know they need permission from their body corporate to do anything that involves common property, like any of the walls, for instance. Even putting up a new wall requires the EC's go-ahead as it's being attached to common property in the form of the slab.

Your EC's permission will no doubt come with conditions attached, like the times work can be carried out - putting paid to your plan to get it all done in the evenings after you're home from work - and where building materials can be stored and rubble discarded.

Warning your neighbours well in advance and working out ways of minimising the hassle for them will also predispose them - and your EC - to your plans.

Do check that your builders and tradesmen have worked in apartments before, and realise the space limitations they'll have to work around. A kitchen renovation company we once had in, for example, couldn't see a problem with leaving all the rubble on the balcony for the two months of the work or cutting marble there with the loungeroom windows wide open, covering the whole place with dust.

Even more importantly, if you decide to buy a run-down dump because with a little tender care it could become a wonderful apartment, first check whether the building's EC are actually likely to agree to your plans. It may well be it's a dump because they're determined to keep renovations to a minimum and won't let any work be done.

I nearly bought a top floor apartment once because it had amazing potential. But I discovered, just in time, that the reason hadn't already been renovated was because the EC refused to let the builders use the lift, insisting all the materials would have to be carried by hand up the four flights of stairs, and the rubble down again the same way. I couldn't have afforded what a builder would have charged for that. Looking back, it was a shame but I was well out of it.

Jimmy's Mailbox

Question
Having had no joy after weeks of advertising my apartment for sale, I did a letterbox drop with photocopied brochures delivered to the neighbourhood, put up my own placard and even poached buyers from other inspections. So far, despite most people saying my flat is too small and being put off by a lack of parking, it's achieving promising results. But what else can I do? T.B. Rose Bay

Answer
Your enterprise is admirable: often that direct letterbox approach can be a highly effective way of sparking interest from people who hadn't even thought before of moving, buying or investing in an apartment.

But go a little further. To make your apartment look bigger, put all your furniture and bric a brac into storage, and rent some good slimline pieces to reduce any suggestion of clutter and create the feeling of space.

Also, investigate parking spaces or garages for rent in the vicinity, and add those details to your brochures. Do the homework for potential buyers - they'll appreciate it!

First published SMH August 2004

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