In years gone by, property investors would bypass apartments instead preferring to invest in a house on a big block of land.

But as demographics shift with more one and two person households, more of us are trading backyards for courtyards and balconies, and investors are increasingly seeing the value of apartment as investments.

While I’ve always suggested avoiding new apartments in large complexes as investments because they lack owner occupier appeal and scarcity; I like the older apartments (that we used to call “flats” when I grew up) because they their own unique set of benefits: they’re often larger than their newer contemporaries, with interesting floor plans and plentiful gardens.

So if you’re contemplating buying an established apartment in Melbourne as an investment here are some of the key mistakes to avoid

1. Failing to consider location

You can’t just buy any apartment in Melbourne and hope it will make a great investment.

70 – 80% of your properties performance will depend upon the location and the rest on the specific property’s unique features.

A common error made by investors of established apartments is not considering the property’s strategic location.

  • Is it an area that will outperform the market with regards to capital growth?
  • What are the demographics?
  • Is there an oversupply of new apartments looming?
  • Will the location continue to appeal to tenants and potential owner-occupiers, if you ever decide to sell?

2. Right neighbourhood, wrong street


Just as considering broader location is a must, it’s also important to be strategic about the street that the building is located in.

Obviously the more sought-after the street, the better the likelihood of future capital growth and the more appeal your property will have with prospective tenants

3. Neglecting your research

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In more specific terms, you need to study not only the history of the location, but the history of the building to gage what sort of return you can expect from it.

That’s the great thing about established apartments, they have a track record you can review and measure – you can’t do this with a new building.

Check out comparable sales and past capital growth performance for apartments in the block.

Also, check out the Owners’ Corporation – are they proactive, is there a sinking fund for future repairs and are there any unresolved disputes?

4. Forgetting about position and outlook

Your potential property might be in the best street, in the best neighbourhood, but how liveable is it?

Does it have a good aspect and is its position within the building favourable to good natural light?

Older apartments, such as apartment blocks built in Melbourne in the 70’s, are often larger than the developments of the last 10 years, but you need to keep in mind the needs of modern tenants.

They ideally want a building with easy, convenient access for themselves and their belongings.

They also need a certain level of privacy and security from other residents in the building.

Other high priorities for tenants includes flow and space, plenty of natural light, and convenient, manageable layouts.

5. Focusing on the property not the land

Despite the fact that demographic trends are changing, one thing remains true: there is more value in the land beneath the building, than in the building itself.

What drives this all boils down to the economic model of supply and demand. When land is scarce and there is strong demand for it, prices are pushed upwards due to low availability.

Similarly, without the demand underpinning a suburb that offers an abundance of land, price growth may be unsupported.

6. Missing the opportunity to add value

inside-old-apartmentsBy refreshing the inside of an older apartment, you’re going to increase the property’s appeal with tenants, raise your rental returns and increase its overall value.

Many investors fail to capitalise on this, but even small renovations and upgrades – like a lick of fresh paint or a new, modern carpet – can make a big difference.

What’s more, renovating is an opportunity to manufacture price growth that isn’t available to new apartment owners, giving investors with older investment properties a distinct advantage.

Just make sure the investment aligns with your strategy and be careful to select a property that ticks all the fundamental boxes.

Remember, you can’t ever change a property’s location, aspect or outlook – but you can change is its features.

So as long as the above common mishaps are avoided, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t consider adding a dated Melbourne apartment to your property portfolio.

Kate Forbes
About Kate Forbes
Kate Forbes is a National Director Property Strategy at Metropole. She has 15 years of investment experience in financial markets in two continents, is qualified in multiple disciplines and is also a chartered financial analyst (CFA).