Buying Apartments
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Buying Apartments

What you should know and should do
Apartments are becoming increasingly popular these days since they have a number of advantages over houses. They provide better security. Inconveniences such as power outages and water cuts are minimal. They require less maintenance and are generally better located for commuting purposes.

To start off, make your own checklist. Assess all aspects that are important to you (e.g. proximity to a particular school, user-friendly entrances and exits if you use a wheel chair, access to airport roads if you travel abroad frequently etc.).

Apartments as investment
The first thing you should ask yourself is whether you want an apartment to live in or whether it is an investment. Let's assume you see it as an investment. These are the questions you need to ask yourself:

a) What are the probable returns from leasing/renting?
b) What is the rate of appreciation/depreciation in relation to your timeframe for selling?

There are three priorities whichever way you look at it: Location, location and location.

Buying an apartment to live in
If you want an apartment to live in, an additional set of considerations come into play. The options available need to be assessed in terms of, again, three things: location, location and location.

The following are typically considered: commuting distance to place of work or most frequently visited place, proximity to groceries, drugstores and shops to buy your daily needs, access to medical facilities and safety of the neighbourhood.

There is no such thing as 'enough information'. Find out as much as you can about the neighbourhood – crime, shanties, garbage dumps, noise levels (of traffic, temples, mosques and trains etc) as well as positive features such as supermarkets, groceries, stores, walkways, etc. within easy reach.

You need to find if the apartment block has been designated as a 'Residential Building' or as a 'Mixed (hybrid) Commercial and Residential Property' in the certificate of conformity. Many developers get permission to put up residential buildings and surreptitiously retain part of the building (often part of the common areas) wherein they carry out all kinds of businesses, including sales offices and business centres. They also block out parking spaces for their businesses, which should rightly be common elements for use as visitor parking by owners and residents.

Get your lawyer to make sure that the common elements (areas and property owned jointly by all the owners of the individual apartments) are specified in detail in your sale agreement, transfer deed, condominium declaration and condominium plan.

It is a cardinal error to expect things to get better after you've moved in. It is better to assume that you will not get any help from the Condominium Management Authority (CMA) after you have bought the apartment. You could check on the developer's track record with the CMA, especially whether there are complaints against him about non-fulfillment of obligations or of fraudulent practices.

It is a good idea to ask your possible future neighbours how they find things. Ask questions before committing yourself.

If the apartment block is designated as a 'Mixed Residential and Business Property', you should be prepared for the inconveniences. Access and some common areas may have to be shared with clients dropping in to do business in the premises. This will generally also impact the level of security that can be assured for the apartments. There might also be some disagreements between the businesses that occupy part of the building and owners of the apartments on what constitutes common areas. This will apply especially to visitor parking and areas covered by security services of the businesses.

Make sure that your entitlements of parking and visitor parking are clearly specified in your deeds. These should be defined in terms not only of numbered lots but also with the boundaries of the adjacent lots clearly stated. In these days when parking on the road is not allowed in many areas, visitor parking within the premises is of the utmost importance.

You should also inquire about arrangements for garbage disposal, security (MATV surveillance, burglar alarm, and security staff), standby power and water supply and recreation (gymnasium, swimming pool, roof-top facilities, cable TV, etc.). Get these specified in your sale agreement, insisting on specific performance guarantees.

Ascertain the traffic situation around the building, particularly with respect to getting into and leaving the premises. Also inquire about the arrangements for sewage disposal (both storm water and sewerage). Find out whether the area around the apartment block gets flooded during heavy downpours.

Remember that you will not be checking out the place on the worst possible conditions. It is safer to imagine the worst and ask the correct questions. Asking the neighbours is always a good idea.

When buying a property that's being re-sold
Observe the overall condition of the complex. Is it well-maintained? Consider the homeowners' association dues. Review the binding rules of the homeowners' association. Make sure they won't affect your lifestyle. Acquaint yourself about what is covered by homeowners' association insurance and what the association is responsible for such as roofs, common areas and landscaping.

Review the recent repairs done to the unit you're considering. Will a major repair be necessary soon? Does the association have sufficient reserves to pay for the repairs? Speak with the secretary of the association and request a copy of the bookkeeping statements. This is your right.

Talk to other owners in the complex or building. Often, disgruntled owners are more than happy to tell you what's really going on.

Apartment features
The features of the particular apartment you will buy need to be considered in some detail. Do not be pressurised into buying the first available apartment in a block. You are going to pay a premium for the view, so consider all options. If you do select the apartment for the view, find out the likelihood of your view getting blocked off by other high-rise buildings which may come up nearby. This can be ascertained from the Urban Development Authority. There are other things to watch out for. Many buyers, for example, forget that north-facing apartments will have the least direct sunlight to deal with.

Check the Basic Apartment Safety Features: solid foundations (what specifications have they been built to?); whether the building is constructed to be reasonably earthquake proof; fire escape and fire precautions (e.g. fire truck route, fire hydrants; fire separators between floors in service ducts; sprinklers in all the common areas; the correct type of fire extinguisher for each location, and gas leak and smoke alarms). Ask questions. It's free of charge.

Many apartments lack adequate light and ventilation due to poor design or attempts to crowd in as many apartments as possible in a single block. The result is that artificial lighting is required even in the daytime, especially in some areas such as the kitchen and bathrooms. Without adequate ventilation, high powered exhaust fans will be required to ventilate areas of the house without windows, and this can add to the cost of maintaining the building and the management fee you will have to pay. All the little things add up and you have to foot the bill.

Make sure that there is an adequate number of lifts in the building to cater to the expected passenger traffic. There should also be a service elevator or large lift to carry big items of furniture such as a dining table.

Overcapacity resulting from the proliferation of apartments could also be physical in nature. When large numbers of apartments come up without corresponding infrastructure development, they could stretch the capacity of the essential physical facilities and services such as the sewerage system, drainage system (especially during the rainy season), electricity supply, domestic water supply, the carrying capacity of the road system, solid waste (garbage) disposal arrangements, etc. Check the adequacy of these facilities assuming 100% occupation.

Our promise to both buyers and sellers is that we hold and command the most comprehensive data base of both buyers and sellers in our geographical area of operation. This enables us to offer our buyers the best matching properties for your specifications. Buyer satisfaction is the key for the seller to get the best possible price.
To truly deliver this promise our valuable clients, we employ various ethical techniques unique to our own. Right at the moment we are active only in the following towns and suburbs.

We hold and command the most comprehensive data base of both buyers and sellers in our geographical areas of operation. This enables us to offer our buyers the best matching properties as per their specifications.

Presently we are active only in the following towns and suburbs.

Nawala Nugegoda
Embuldeniya Colombo 3
Mirihana Madiwela Colombo 4
Ethulkotte Thalawathugoda Colombo 5
Pelawatta Pitakotte
Kohuwala Colombo 7
Beddagana Pepiliyana Colombo 8

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