Real Estate Insight Expert Opinion with Samantha Reece, Director of Australian Apartment Advocacy (AAA)
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Company or organisation: Australian Apartment Advocacy (AAA)
Job title: Director
What attracted you to the real estate industry (and when)?
I have been in the property industry for more than 25 years. I was initially involved in community consultation, especially with contentious projects that received a significant amount of backlash from the community because they represented a change to the status quo.
I have always had a focus on education to allow for informed decisions. People are often motivated by fear – hence why they say no to change – but once they are informed and are empowered, their attitudes can often change.
What do you love most about the industry?
People’s home is their castle – but I am also a strong advocate for housing choice, with an emphasis on consumer protection.
Often, people who have made the wrong choice have no one to turn to. So, hearing their story, showing empathy and working with them to change their circumstances is extremely rewarding. Everyone deserves a safe home. You can be a small cog within the property industry, but still, be highly effective.
What do you consider your proudest moment or greatest achievement (in the industry)?
Creating Australia’s first Apartment Buyer and Owner Education Kit. It required a working group of 13 specialists and took nine months to complete – but we have received more than 5,000 downloads since launching in Western Australia in November 2020, and are rolling it out nationally.
I love it when developers like Adam Grollo download the kit – because then they know that buyers are going to be more discerning with their choices and this means that developers are going to have to “up” their game. I am a big believer in people power and if enough people ask for good quality – then the market will have to adjust accordingly.
Biggest challenges in the industry? How has the pandemic affected the way people buy, sell and rent property?
There was a lot of negative media about apartments and COVID – especially with the perception that people were fleeing the cities. But our 2021 Apartment Living Survey, which interviewed 3,600 people nationally, showed that 77 per cent felt that COVID had not impacted their appetite for apartment living at all and, in fact, 10 per cent enjoyed living in their apartment more after COVID than before.
Latest real estate/economic trends affecting your state or region?
For the past 20 years, the government has turned a blind eye to the construction of apartments and allowed building companies to provide no surety to owners.
I recently presented our 2021 Apartment Living Survey to 100 developers, and we asked them what the biggest challenge was facing them in the next 12 months. We found that 30 per cent stated lack of population growth; 30 per cent stated the presence of defects, and 30 per cent said trying to convince buyers that apartments are a good choice.
This crisis in confidence with apartments is being felt by the industry and buyers — so, now is the time for a change.
How would you improve the process and incentives for property ownership, from an owner-occupier and investment perspective?
NSW will introduce apartment insurance in the next six months that covers owners for 10 years in case the builder goes bankrupt or skips town.
We need this to be a national approach. We also need to ban private certification. We need developers to be held accountable and then buyers will have faith that they have recourse if their apartment building has defects.
What’s the biggest misconception people have when buying or building a home?
That it doesn’t need to be maintained. You can’t drive a car for 20 years without servicing it – the same principle applies to apartments.
We also need to stop thinking of a home as an asset, but rather a place where we feel safe.
Housing choice is also important. We don’t all need a four-bedroom, two-bathroom home with a large backyard. We need to understand that as our lives change, so do our housing needs.
What tips would you give for future-proofing an investment?
Buy an apartment that sits within a village setting and is close to public amenities.
Security is also a big focus for apartment owners/renters. You want an apartment that will be in demand, regardless of external circumstances.
Renters like to live close to where they work or study and hence you need to provide a well-featured apartment, with amenities, which also offers convenience. Amenities in an apartment do help with resale but be conscious of strata fees. The sweet spot for most buyers is up to $1000/quarter.
What should prospective buyers look for when choosing a property?
Download our Education Kit, firstly. Then look for a company that has a long history in apartments and is prepared to provide acoustic, water membrane and engineering reports.
Check the strata levies or fees for the next three to four years and make sure you have the budget for this expense. The fees are essential in ensuring that your building is maintained and holds its value.
In terms of technology and interaction, what do you think buying a home will be like in 2030?
I think that COVID is a part of our daily lives. Apartment buildings, for one, will have more business hubs to accommodate working from home.
I believe they will also have more outdoor spaces for residents to break out and enjoy. I am hoping that the industry will be stronger and more reputable and that people will not have to worry about elements such as combustible cladding and structural or water-membrane issues.
I am also a big believer that a greater proportion of apartment sales will be done virtually, and that technology will play a wider role in people being able to visualise the apartments (3D tours) prior to purchase.