There is a growing division in the world of apartment living and it’s not, for a change, between owners and renters. It’s between the haves and the have-nots.
There are plenty of renters who are loaded and lots of apartment owners who don’t have two Bitcoin to rub together.
And those apartment residents who have cash to splash are spending it on facilities that are possibly just as much status symbols as they are lifestyle essentials.
It’s not so long ago that a lap pool and gym (a windowless room equipped with a clapped out exercise bike and a machine bought off a late-night TV shopping channel) were advertised as “resort facilities”.
These days buyers into high-end apartment blocks are going to expect a lot more. The gym equipment has to be top-of-the-line, even in areas where there seems to be a new commercial gym on every corner.
There is one large block in Sydney that has not one but two music rooms – one of which comes with a baby grand piano. Others have cinema rooms that you can book for free, libraries for quiet contemplation, table-tennis rooms and heated communal spas.
Saunas and steam rooms may be coming back into fashion, after years of bad press about running costs and maintenance, but massage suites and fitness assessment rooms are a more recent trend.
Inside the flats, timber floors in the main rooms and lush carpets in the bedrooms are de rigeur. Add in a kitchen in which you could stage a heat of Masterchef, and bathrooms big enough to hold a Roman bacchanalia, and you get the picture.
All of this costs money but hey, that keeps the riff-raff out. Nowhere is that principle more vividly illustrated than in Victoria where purchasers of some high-end apartments must sign a legally binding caveat that they will never let their apartment on Airbnb or any other holiday agency.
With yoga rooms and rooftop silent cinemas offered as a selling point in some Australian apartment blocks, you’d think we were ahead of the game here. Not even close.
If America now is Australia five years hence, this is what you can expect to be offered in a 2024 luxury apartment block.
There will be a 24-hour gym, a walking trail and outdoor fitness stations all around the scheme. It will be pet-friendly, with a dog park and pet spas.
There will be communal barbecue grills, outdoor TV screens and free wi-fi, a heated swimming pool with resort style sundecks and a fire pit. It will have a virtual golf simulation room, a club room with a pool table, and a media room with flat screen TVs and residents’ bars.
There will be environmentally conscious air-conditioning, lighting and appliances, plus a private guest suite for visitors, a 24-hour business centre, home minding services for while you’re away and parcel collection.
There will be online or smartphone rent payment, a residents’ intranet, social networking events and 24-hour emergency maintenance.
Now, various apartment blocks in Australia already have similar facilities, but perhaps not all in the one place. So is this just a pipe dream … a glossy brochure that the reality will never match?
No, it exists and a second-floor 76 sqm one-bedroom apartment with study will cost you from $3435 a month. The place is a build-to-rent called The Parker and it’s in Alexandria. No, sadly, not the one in South Sydney, this is in Washington DC.
OK, it would be a bit of a commute, but check it out online – the images in the gallery are stunning – and see what the future of apartment living looks like … for some.
And, yes, the majority of residents here are tenants, because the USA and Europe don’t regard long-term renting as a sign that you have completely failed in life. .
A version of this column first appeared in the Australian Financial Review.