Feet on the ground or pie in the sky – that’s the question apparently facing increasing numbers of empty nesters as they decide whether to sell up the large family home in the suburbs and move into an apartment nearer the city or beach.
But it’s not as clear-cut as that and apartment living makes perfect sense for people whose families have grown up and moved on. Those same children often try to persuade you not to do it, what with nostalgia for their childhood and half an eye on their kids playing in your backyard. And you’re really not sure whether you’ll adapt well to apartment living.
If you’re seriously tempted, rent an apartment to see how it feels. If there are things you know you’ll miss, like gardening, for instance, choose a place with a good-sized balcony, a garden unit, or a complex that includes gardens. Many buildings encourage residents to lend a hand keeping it tidy.
Throw yourself into the new lifestyle too, rather than trying to continue a suburban life in your new setting. Empty nesters who get the most out of apartment living are those who get out and about, going to the theatre and cinema, catching free concerts and events in the parks, inviting friends into town for dinner, and expanding their social horizons.
And the most important thing you need to know is that you are not alone – empty-nesters are one of the biggest social groups currently buying into apartments in and around Sydney.
Even smack in the heart of the city, there are blocks full of late-middle-agers who have worked hard, raised their kids and now want to enjoy the fruits of their labours in a place where they feel secure, happy and right in the middle of things, often with a gym and pool downstairs to keep fit and healthy.
Check out the building you plan to buy into first, to make sure residents are the kind of people you’d like to live with, rather than young party ragers or lots of renters and short-term tenants.
Do your sums carefully to make sure the quarterly levies won’t eat too ferociously into your nest egg, especially if you plan to have money left over from the sale of your family home for that weekender in the country too
Otherwise, go for it! Just make sure you don’t buy an apartment with too many spare rooms. Not only will it cost more, those same kids that told you not to buy an apartment will soon be queuing up for a slice of the city living action.
Jimmy Thomson is co-author (with Sue Williams) of Apartment Living: The complete guide to buying, selling, surviving and thriving in apartments, ABC Books. $29.95
Q: I live in a low-rise building without lifts that’s part of a larger development. Why should I have to pay for all the other buildings’ lifts? A.H. Annandale
A: Yes, you will have to pay a share of all the cost of maintaining all the facilities within your strata or community plan, whether or not you use them or even have access to them.
You may be able to cut that cost, however, by challenging how the unit entitlements in the complex have been allocated. That’s the figure given to each apartment, usually determined by size, amenities and position. But it’s a tough process and you’ll probably have to engage a strata lawyer, so make sure your neighbours are with you to share the burden.