Moving on up: Five must-dos when upsizing from strata living

By John O'Reilly

A unit or a townhouse is often a great way to get into the property market. With growing equity and possibly a growing family, it won’t be long before you’re considering upsizing.

Here are five essential tips if you’re considering upsizing from a flat or a townhouse to a house.

Consider your long-term property goals

This is critical. Where do you want to be in five to 10 years? In a comfortable family home with space to grow? Building and growing an investment portfolio? Living in a sought-after location? These are significant decisions. As tempting as it may be to cash in on your property’s increased value and your equity, your next step could put you on the path to property success, or a wrong move could have you struggling for years. Think about where you want to be, and work backwards from there, getting professional advice along the way. First step, get a market appraisal so that you know what price your home could attract in today’s market. Don’t leave this to chance, and certainly don’t set your aspirations on what you heard the neighbour’s place sold for.

Budget

With hard facts (your market appraisal price guide) in your pocket and your property goals set, you can set your sights on a realistic property search. This is where the trap lies. While your property may well have increased in value, so have those around you. That means that you are likely taking on a bigger mortgage than you bargained for. Two things often happen when people upsize: they search for properties at the top end of their budget, which inevitably means they overspend, and they’re saddled with financing a mortgage that constrains their lifestyle and any plans they had for the new property. Second, there are the overlooked short-term costs, such as stamp duty, conveyancing, moving, repairs and so on. A bigger house means higher costs, so buyer beware, and budget carefully.

Postcode attachment

For many people in strata living dwellers, the upshot to living in a smaller space is that it can be in a suburb that you love. Perhaps you bought the flat to buy into a lifestyle, such as being close to work, cafes, the beach, and so on, knowing that you were sacrificing on size to be able to afford the location. Now that you have equity and buying power, it might not be feasible to upsize in the same location. You need to be wary that your emotional attachment doesn’t have you stretching beyond your financial limits or perhaps missing out on opportunities for a bigger home and capital growth in suburbs you haven’t considered.

Consider the alternatives

Even though you have equity in your place and its value has been growing steadily, staying put could be an option. If you live in a sought-after area, could renovating give you a better long-term return than selling? This might not be realistic if you have a baby on the way, but if the costs of buying a new home exceed the costs of renovating, and both options provide capital growth opportunities, then an alternative plan might be worth serious consideration. A second question here is a more emotional one: is bigger really better? A larger home comes with more work and lifestyle changes. Maybe you love where you live, and provided you don’t overcapitalise when you renovate, a spruce-up might be the better option.

Budget for extras

The hidden costs of upsizing come after you’ve moved in. You’ll immediately notice the extra space and want to add furniture or update your furniture to suit. Then there are the ongoing costs. Your utility bills, council rates, maintenance, and repairs are all going to be more expensive than in your flat or unit. Be sure you can afford these long-term to be able to make the most out of your move.

John O’Reilly

Licensed Real Estate Agent

4207 9480

I was born to be in sales. From a very early age, I was serving and helping clients in my father’s hardware business and giving them advice, which is scary. I love working with people, helping them get what they want, and pushing myself to excel. My friends and family that know me well laugh about all the jobs I have done over the years, but it was all to get me to this point in my life, a real estate agent.

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