This week’s podcast discovers a new way of buying property – or at least putting down a deposit.
The problem for many prospective home buyers is that, all the time they are saving for the deposit on a new home, prices keep rising so the amount they need to save gets more and so the property is always just out of reach.
But we’ve heard about a new proposal that’s been introduced where you can put down a relatively small deposit on a new flat and that add to it every week so that by the time the unit is ready, you’ve got enough in the bank to go and get a mortgage.
Now, as frequently happens on the pod, someone in government is clearly hacking into our conversations as we record them, and changing policy to suit.
So while we were musing about how hard it would be to raise a 20 per cent deposit over two years, the government was renewing its policy of allowing first-time home buyers to only put down five per cent deposits.
All of which makes the new CoPosit plan even more feasible. You can have your smashed avo and eat it, and hear all about it here.
Back to the pod we discuss the best and worst strata managers and we take a look at a couple of stories fresh off the Flat Chat Forum, including what to do if one committee member drives everyone away and how to get more people to come along to meetings.
That’s all in this week’s Flat Chat Wrap.
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TRANSCRIPT IN FULL
A couple of interesting things have come up this week; we have a new way of buying an apartment.
It doesn’t involve Bitcoin. It’s a new way of getting a deposit together, which sounds quite interesting. We are going to talk about strata managers, good and bad and we’re going to dive into the forum again, to see what weird and wonderful stories have come out of the Flat Chat forum, on the Flat Chat website. We’ve got a lot to talk about. I’m Jimmy Thomson, I write the Flat Chat column for the Australian Financial Review.
And I’m Sue Williams. I write about property for Domain.
And this is the Flat Chat Wrap.
Now, be honest Sue, have you ever heard of coposit before?
Never. I can say that with a huge amount of confidence. So, it’s a corruption of the word deposit, is it?
Co-deposit. It’s a portmanteau word, that’s got two words in it.
Yes. This is co-deposit.
They should have called it coposit, couldn’t they?
They did call it coposit.
That’s a good thing, then. Alright, so what is it? We’ve got a press release; we’ve never come across it before. Sounds…Well, on the one hand, it sounds incredibly mundane, because it’s all about a project; an apartment project in Newcastle, called Dairy Farmers Towers? Wouldn’t you just love to live there?
I could grow fat, just thinking about it, really. Presumably, it’s on the former site of a dairy or something?
Yes, the big Dairy Farmers bottling plant in West Newcastle. They have come up with a way that they think will get new homebuyers (first-time homebuyers, especially), into the market. As we have constantly said, in this podcast and on the website, and in your stories; the difficulty for people trying to get into the market, is that they save for a deposit and as they’re saving for the deposit, the price is going up and up and up and that deposit is getting further and further and further away. So, these people have come up with this idea of coposit, where you put up $10,000 (so you’ve got to have some money), but then you pay off the rest of the deposit, while the building is being built.
Oh, that’s interesting. So, in theory, you only need $10,000 deposit, whereas maybe before, you needed…
Well look, the starting price for their apartments is a very reasonable $587,000.
Right, so normally, you’d need at least $50,000.
Well, the way the banks are being squeezed at the moment, it’s more likely to be $116,000, or something like that.
Okay. So, if you’ve got just $10,000, you can put down a deposit and then just start saving for the next two years, or whenever they’re going to finish.
It still means you’ve got to find $50,000 a year, to make up the rest of the deposit, but you know…
If it’s $1000 a week, maybe…
That’s a lot of smashed avocado.
Still, it’s a lot of money, isn’t it, really?
It’s still a lot of money, but when we discussed this the other day, you said it’s a real incentive. It’s one thing to be saying “oh, we can’t afford to go to the movies and we’ve got to cut down on our streaming services, and we’ve got to cut down on going to the cafe, so that we can put a little bit of extra money away.” But, if you’ve got a commitment, to finding that money…
And if you’ve got a picture of your apartment, that you’re going to be (hopefully), taking possession of in two year’s this time, that’s a great motivator isn’t it, really?
So maybe, it’s a really good idea.
I keep trying to find the flaw and can’t find it at the moment.
The flaw I kind of thought of straight away, was that maybe, someone has $10,000, or maybe, their parents give them $10,000, or whatever. Maybe, they still can’t really afford to buy one of those apartments and they’ve been given false hope, really. So, they put down a deposit, but they can’t really afford to save $1,000 a week, really. I mean, that is quite a lot of money.
That’s a question I think one of us should ask these… I’m not sure if Third.i are the publicists… No, they’re the developer. They’re a very well known developer in Sydney and in Newcastle. So, they’re reliable people, then?
Oh yes, absolutely.
They’re not a bunch of sharks and crooks?
No, they’re a very reliable developer. They’ve done a lot of projects around and quality products, as well.
So, if you want to live in Newcastle, or if you already live in Newcastle…
Neither of us have heard about this project before; the idea of this coposit scheme, but maybe, it has existed before, in Sydney and in Melbourne. It would be worth phoning up Luke Berry from Third.i and saying to him, is this the first time you’ve done something like this, because he’s got a lot of projects in Sydney, too. He may well have introduced it there, or if this one is successful, maybe they’ll consider (or other developers will consider), doing it elsewhere.
It says in the press release (and I read from this noisy piece of paper), ‘the project is set to feature one of the first deposit schemes Newcastle has seen, with a revolutionary service, flipping the way buyers save for a deposit on its head.’ Is ‘flipping on its head,’ the way buyers save for a deposit? Anyway…
Mixed metaphors there, I think.
‘In a bid to help locals enter the market. Third.i has launched the exclusive coposit scheme, with property investment firm Coposit.’
So, maybe an idea will be to phone Coposit and ask if they’ve done any others, as well, or whether they’ve just been set up, just for this?
It says it will be a fee-free app-based service, allowing buyers to purchase a property with just $10,000 in savings, with the remainder of the deposit paid over weekly instalments, until the apartment is ready.
So what happens if people default on their weekly instalments?
That’s the big question, isn’t it?
Do they lose that first $10,000 and do they lose more money, that they’ve put in?
It’s hard; you would think, not.
I don’t know; you’d think that first $10,000 might be at risk.
Do you remember the last property crash? There were all these people who had put deposits down on apartments and then they discovered that the apartments were going to be worth less when finalised, than they thought they were going to be. People had put down deposits on $700,000 apartments and it turned out they were only going to be worth $650 or $600,000, by the time they came to market and a lot of people said “okay, just keep the deposit.”
Because they would lose less money, by giving them their deposit, than they would if they carried on through to buying the whole apartment.
And there were some developer saying “no, you’ve signed a contract to buy the apartment and if you don’t complete, we’re going to take you to court.” I’m not saying that’s going to happen here (let me quickly add that), but it is worth asking, what happens if people have over-extended? They’ve made a commitment; they lose their job or whatever… Lose one of their three jobs, that they would need to finance this and come back and say “I’m sorry, I can’t meet the payments.” Do they get all the money back; do they get some of the money back? Presumably, it would be one of those two options. They’re not going to take people to court, you would hope.
Well, they’ve probably not got much money, anyway. They probably don’t have any equity in other apartments, or anything.
“We’re taking away your scooter.”
Don’t you dare! So yes, it would be worth finding out a little bit more about that. It does sound promising.
I mean, look, the interest rates from the banks at the moment, are… Well, right now, they’re nothing. It costs you more to keep an account open and the stock markets, I would say, what with us being on the brink of World War 3, are pretty volatile, so maybe this is a way of saving money. You’re not going to get any interest on it, but at least it’s still going to be worth a chunk of real estate.
When I look at a friend of mine, who’s been looking for a place to buy for the last three years and she just hasn’t found anywhere, within her price range and she’s kind of extending her price range, but the stuff is getting more expensive.
It’s getting away from her.
So if she had gone into something like this, maybe three years ago, she might have been…
She’d be alright now.
Okay, so we’re going to check this out. We will report back on what the nuts and bolts of all this are. Are you going to write a story for the…
I might do.
Okay, so keep your eye open for that and you never know, it might end up on the Flat Chat website. Also, when we come back, we’re going to talk about something that I’m going to be writing about this week, which is strata managers, and how a good one can make a building absolutely sing and a bad one can turn into a complete disaster.
Sue, we’ve come across our share of bad and good strata managers.
Yes, we certainly have. We’ve come across the pits and we’ve come across some great ones, who’ve been really positive and contributed to how well a building is run. You know, really proactive; suggesting ways to do things better and it’s been great.
I remember when we started writing about strata; basically, strata managers were the enemy.
Yes. They could be, certainly.
ISTMS, as it was; the Institute of Strata Title Management Services, or something like that, they were what is now SCA, Strata Community Association. They were basically just there to protect strata managers from owners. Over the years, they have become very professional. Last year, they got their professional standards accepted and now that’s being worked through. They’ve got their Code of Conduct. Accountability and transparency are becoming the bywords for them.
Yes, that’s right. They are a lot more engaged, in that way.
And they also have a very sophisticated training programme, so that strata managers can get their ticket. I’m not sure which is which, but I know that you can get a qualification, which is different from a licence. A licence allows you to actually have a strata management company, whereas a qualification allows you to work as a strata manager…Big difference, but they’re getting all that; that’s all been sorted out. They are become very professional (some of them). Some of them are still a bit behind the eight ball.
Have you come across a couple of bad ones lately?
The one that sticks out in my mind; it was somebody who had written to the Flat Chat forum. They’d bought into this horrendous situation in a regional town, where a local farmer had decided he wanted an apartment with a view out over the beach, to the ocean. The easiest way to do that, was to build the six or seven floors underneath, so that he could have the penthouse. He had no idea! You know, he had no idea about how strata ran. I think he and the first two owners, when the first water bill came in for all the landscaping that he had done, he said “well, there’s three of us, so we share it three ways.” They said “no, you’ve got 12 apartments, we’ve got two apartments, so you pay 12/14th’s of it,” which he thought was ridiculous. He had no idea and wasn’t very interested in learning, so we arranged for a strata manager to come in and take over strata manager duties in the building. She came along and held the first AGM and it was about 20 minutes into the AGM, that the people who’d contacted us realised that she’d been using the 2006 Act, not the 2015.
That’s terrible, isn’t it?
Somebody said “you realise, the law changed really quite substantially in 2015?” Her response was “well, nobody told me.” This was about three years ago, you know. That’s one of the worst I’ve come across. One of the worst I think (that affected us), was the strata manager who put the seal; the strata building seal, on a contract that had been changed by the developer, to favour them, in case we got rid of their bloody awful building manager. Our strata manager put the seal on the contract, without re-reading it.
And said that we’d agreed to it; the owners corporation agreed to it. Well, we hadn’t seen it at all. Yes, it’s very difficult.
But then, we had a dodgy committee at that time too, didn’t we?
It’s funny; I mean, even now, you come across strata managers, and you kind of wonder what they’re like. I was doing a story on a subject that we talked about in the podcast last week, about a guy who had bought an electric vehicle, in his strata building in Darlinghurst. The committee had refused to allow him to use the power point in the garage, to charge it up again. He’s a doctor, who is doing 10-hour shifts at different hospitals around Sydney, so it was having to add on an extra hour to his commuting time, where he’d have to go and sit in a parking station and have his car plugged in, because it was quite an old car. I think it was about three or four years old, so it doesn’t change very quickly. He’d have to sit in his car for up to an hour at a time, and then go to work, or then go home, just because his building wouldn’t let him charge overnight, where he lived. He offered to pay the cost of that, either with a weekly payment (probably about $10; it really doesn’t cost very much), or if they wanted to metre his use, he would pay for whatever he used.
Because you can get a little, almost portable metre, that you just add to the electricity thing and they can see how much electricity is being used and when it’s being used. Of course, he would have been charging it overnight, so it would have been off-peak.
But they refused to let him and then ended up sealing up the power plug, so he couldn’t use it. He, in the end, in desperation, had to get rid of his EV and go back to an old petrol car. It’s quite interesting talking to him, because he says as a doctor, he’s often having to treat people who’ve suffered the ill-effects of climate change. He’s been treating a lot of people who’ve suffered illness because of the floods and then before that, was the bushfires, and obviously, COVID.
And skin cancer.
That’s right, so now, he really resents having to drive a petrol vehicle, and his emissions are contributing to climate change. When I spoke to the strata manager of the building and asked him why they’d decided to do that; it just seemed pretty unreasonable, we got into this bizarre argument, where he was saying to me “well, you say you’re from the Sydney Morning Herald, but how can I tell that you are?” I was saying “well, how about you phone me back, or you phone the switchboard of the newspaper and they can put you through to me?” He was saying “no, I don’t believe you.” It was so weird! I’ve never come across that before. It was really funny, to meet somebody who was so incredibly suspicious. I mean, he could have easily looked on my website. Why would I be interested in phoning him, if I was somebody else?
You’re from the electric car people, aren’t you? Trying to weasel your way into our building! I’ve got two problems with this person. One, he has given bad advice to his owners corporation. He should be saying to them “hey guys, having EV charging in apartments has become the new gym, in apartments.”
Well, more than a new gym, really.
If I could just finish, Sue Williams! In so much as people see it as part of the infrastructure and go “oh yeah, I want to be in that building.”
Well, I would suggest (as I tried to suggest, before you interrupted me, Jimmy Thomson); it’s even more than a gym. A lot of people don’t want a gym in the building…They’re happy to go to a commercial gym nearby, but they definitely do want WiFi. I think EV’s are the equivalent of WiFi, or they’re going to be.
And so in terms of him talking to his owners, about the value of their property, he should have been saying to them “look, this is a very simple way of improving the overall value of the building, at very little cost.” Even if it has just been to permit this guy to put a metre on the power supply and put a lock on the power supply, so that only he could use it, and he would get charged and he was going to pay for all that. I think the other argument they used, was that they couldn’t be charging people for…
Individuals, for use of common property.
Which is absolute crap, because when we get our hot water bills, our hot water comes from a central hot water tank in the building, but it’s metered, so that we only pay for the hot water that we use. Now, some buildings will pay for their hot water based on their unit entitlements, but if you’ve got a single person living in a three bedroom apartment, and you’ve got four young people living in a two bedroom apartment, who’s going to be using more hot water? So, it exists within the structures of strata law, that you can charge individual owners for their individual use of elements of common property. There’s the strata manager; I don’t know, maybe he went to the committee and begged them to let this guy charge his car… Judging from his complete ineptitude in dealing with you, as a representative of Her Majesty’s press, I suspect he basically took the line of least resistance and said…
As you say, I mean, there are so many more EVs around, especially with petrol becoming so expensive. More and more people are looking at EVs. It’s very short -sighted of any apartment building, not to consider putting in more charges. You know, there’s lots of companies now, who can advise them on different ways of doing it; cheaper ways, that are easy for just a few owners to use, or more expensive, more sophisticated systems, for later on. Even Strata Answers that.
They’re doing a course on it, aren’t they?
Yes, they are. They’re a company which helps strata owners come to terms with different issues and subjects. Disclaimer; they are one of our sponsors… They do advertise on our website. They are offering a course to people and saying to them “come to us and ask us about any issues you have, and we’ll look at them and then put you in touch with the right people, to solve the issues.” So, there’s no excuse for not doing anything, really.
I think Fair Trading need to step in and change the regulations and just make it clear. If you have owners who want to buy electricity from you, to charge their cars, then you can do it. You’re not going to end up getting taken to the tribunal. Nobody’s going to come and sack the committee. It’s possible… You should be doing it; do it. I can’t see our current Fair Trading Minister doing anything of the kind.
Well, no. I’ve left lots of messages for her and emails, as well. She’s never ever called me back and never responded, which is unusual for a Fair Trading minister. I think I’ve spoken to all of the last five, but this one seems to be going to ground.
Our Fair Trading minister; we should never forget that she is the minister for Small Business and Fair Trading, which is almost in brackets. Look, it’s a simple solution, but here’s a really good case of where a strata manager could have stepped in and said “listen, guys, get this going. It’s not going to cost you anything; it’s going to make your building more appealing. Even if you are climate denialists, that’s too bad.” Wake up and smell the roses; smell the batteries. Have you got any other stories about strata managers, who’ve helped buildings?
I think there’s been a lot. I mean, you look at some of the buildings with huge problems… Strata managers have been really, really helpful, in telling them what to do; how to go about looking for solutions. Also, pairing them with companies that offer strata loans, if they need them to get things sorted, like their cladding issues, things like that. I think strata managers are keener now to help, than they ever have been, because they do recognise that some of these buildings…They’re big buildings, they’re really complex issues that they face and strata managers are in the perfect position to solve any problems.
I remember; a strata manager who has become a friend. I haven’t seen him for ages, but when he was being interviewed for his job, he said “I don’t manage buildings, I manage people.”
Yes, absolutely. It’s a hard job, I think.
Thankless, I would say. Alright, talking about thankless jobs; one of the things we’re going to talk about when we come back, is what happens when nobody wants to be on your strata committee. That’s after this.
So, is there a building where nobody wants to be on the strata committee?
There’s a couple that have written to the Flat Chat forum and basically, one of them was as blunt as that. They said “we’ve got this awful person, who turns up at meetings; rants and raves refuses to behave and then in between meetings, just abuses the strata committee members and the various office bearers, just for not doing exactly what he wants them to do.”
And is he a member of the strata committee?
In this case he is, yes. So, they’ve come to us and said “what can we do about this person, because nobody wants to be on the strata committee.”
Oh, that’s a problem. What would you recommend?
Well, the first thing is, don’t give in, because that’s what this person wants. I’ve got a couple of ways of doing this and this could come back to the general question of nobody wants to be on the strata committee. Some people just don’t want to be on the strata committee, because they can’t be bothered, right? You don’t have to have a nutter in the building, for a lot of people to not want to be on the strata committee, or not enough people. But getting back to the nutter situation; well, one of the things I’ve been saying for years is, there should be standing orders and a code of conduct for every building and they should adopt them, as a bylaw. The standing orders should have rules, like, you cannot speak again, until everybody who has spoken on that topic has had their shot. So, you can’t keep coming back and coming back and coming back and haranguing people. If there are three other people who want to have an opinion, they’ve got to speak, and then you can come back again. I think that’s really fair; it’s a good way of calming everything down, but you will get the people who refuse to accept the rulings of the chair. Then, you have your code of conduct and built into that code of conduct, is the thing that says if somebody is misbehaving at a meeting; not following the rules, they can be named in the minutes. The way you do that is you say “okay, look, if you’re not going to behave, I’m going to propose that you’re named in the minutes as having breached the rules.” If they continue, you then say “I’m taking a vote now. Does anybody in the committee believe that we should name this person in the minutes?” Of course, everybody’s going to be sick and tired of this person. Now, what that does is it takes away the personal thing… It takes away that person coming back and saying “you’ve named me in the minutes and that’s defamatory,” even though it isn’t. But, you know, people they think they know the law, and they don’t. People get scared of being sued, so it takes all that away, but it also makes everybody in the building realise (once you keep seeing that name coming up in the minutes), that there’s a crazy guy in the building, that is stopping us from moving forward with stuff.
It might make them more interested in going along to meetings, or playing some part.
Just for the entertainment value.
Hopefully, to dilute that crazy person’s presence.
The strata law in New South Wales and elsewhere, allows you to go to NCAT and say “can you please bump this person; either stop them being an office bearer, or take them off the committee?” That’s quite a sanction. That’s very rarely used, actually. It tends to be that people go from putting up with all the crap, to going “can we just get a statutory appointment of a strata manager?” It is a big, big step; it is not something you want to go into lightly. I mean, I can understand why some buildings do it, because they’re just at their wit’s end, but that strata manager has to come in and do everything by the book, and all these little things that we do in communities, where we go “oh, they shouldn’t be parking their baby’s buggy there, but come on! Let them be, it’s not in the way;” that strata manager is going to come in and start issuing breach notices, maybe. So, you don’t necessarily want that; you don’t do it lightly. I think more people should be collecting the evidence, recording conversations and arguments in their meetings and then taking that evidence to NCAT and saying “this guy is a pest.” It usually is a man, it has to be said… “This guy’s a pest, can you bump him off the committee, because he’s got all these proxies from people who don’t know how he behaves and won’t listen to anybody telling them.” I think that’s something that should be used more widely than it is. As far as people who just can’t be bothered to be on the committee, I think history tells us that whenever something comes up that affects a lot of people’s lifestyles, or wallets…
Yes, then suddenly, they become interested.
In fact, somebody wrote to us in response to one of these things, around how they can get people interested. They said he was left to run the whole committee himself, and just felt very exposed, apart from anything else, because everything that went wrong in the building, was blamed on him. So, he wanted to get more people to the AGM and he proposed a tenfold increase in the levies.
The levies went from a total of $50,000 a year, to half a million and they got a huge turnout.
I bet he did!
And then, when they said “what’s this tenfold?” He went “oh, sorry, it’s a misprint. Just knock a zero off, but while you’re here, we’ve got a couple of things we need to discuss.”
I remember one of the biggest turnouts we got, was when somebody (and it wasn’t a deliberate thing, to get lots of people along)… She suggested that the gym be converted to a sauna; do you remember that? It was quite a bizarre suggestion, really and because it was so bizarre, lots of people came along to talk about it and against it. That kind of achieved peak interest in the strata scheme and the way it was being run, as well.
I think you can only play that card so often, and you have to make the experience of the meeting such a pleasant one. Tea, coffee and biscuits and a glass of wine at the end, kind of thing.
Yes and make sure it doesn’t happen on 1 April, perhaps.
Which is just around the corner. And on that note, I think we’ve delved into the Flat Chat forum enough for one week, and we’re way over time and there have been sirens going off all around us. I fully expect us to emerge from our little homemade studio here, to find that everybody else has left the building, sheltering somewhere. Thanks, Sue.
And thank you all for listening. We will talk to you all again soon. Bye.
Thanks for listening to the Flat Chat Wrap podcast. You’ll find links to the stories and other references on our website flatchat.com.au And if you haven’t already done so, you can subscribe to this podcast completely free on Apple podcasts, Google podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or your favourite pod catcher. Just search for Flat Chat Wrap with a W, click on subscribe, and you’ll get this podcast every week without even trying. Thanks again. Talk to you again next week.