Apartments - Are they a good investment? An honest review

Thinking about investing in an apartment? Here is an honest review of what the pros and cons are and whether this option is the right fit for your investment portfolio.

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Laine Moger

Journalist and Property Educator for 6 Years
Introduction

Apartments don’t grow in value as quickly as houses or townhouses.

But where apartments fall short in growth, they can sometimes make up for it with their higher-than-average yields … generally speaking.

With this in mind, are apartments a good investment?

In this article you’ll learn what an apartment is and how they stack up as an investment property.

What Are They?

What Is An Apartment?

Apartments vs townhouses vs houses – what’s the difference?

With apartments you typically have neighbours on either side of your unit and you’ll often have homes above and below you too.

 

Apartment buildings can be large or small, but the key difference between an apartment and other property types is that there are multiple units stacked on top of one another.

Most apartments also share common areas, such as an underground car park, a lobby, and perhaps even common courtyards. This may also include a shared elevator, or even amenities such as a pool or a gym.

Apartments in NZ

Because there are shared spaces, apartments also have a Body Corporate. This is an entity that governs the building.

A committee is typically elected from the owners of the units and each owner pays a share of the maintenance. Some owners pay more than others, depending on the type of apartment they own.

What Are The Different Types?

What Are The Different Types Of Apartments?

Not all apartments are the same. There tends to be 3 main types in New Zealand.

Standard apartment

This is the most common apartment. It’s a single unit within a building that contains many units. There will likely be other units on the same floor as you, and you may use an elevator to get to your floor.

Apartments in Christchurch

Walk-ups

“Walk-ups” are a fancy way of saying an apartment with no lift. These are commonly found in New York. And because there isn’t a lift these apartment blocks tend to have fewer floors.

In addition, instead of a bunch of separate units being housed on the same floor, your apartment may have the whole floor to itself.

Walk-ups still have people above or below, but generally there is no shared elevator. This means you walk up the stairs to the apartment, hence the name.

Walk-ups were a feature in Hobsonville Point, Auckland.

Dual keys

Dual keys are a type of multi-income property.

Instead of having a single unit, a dual key has two separate, but adjoining, units held under one legal title.

So, from a tenant’s or home buyer’s perspective, the two apartments feel separate but legally they are the same property.

Again, this type of apartment is a new concept in New Zealand but is well established in some Asian countries.

Here’s a floor plan example from a development in Ellerslie, Auckland.

Floor Plan dual apartment

In the above example the size of the property is the same as a standard 2-bedroom apartment (75sqm). However, it is configured as a 1-bedroom and a studio.

For a property investor that means the two units can be rented separately to two different households under separate tenancy agreements. This means you can have two sources of income, which maximises your rental yield.

Dual key apartments

For instance, let’s take another look at Safari Group’s dual-key apartment in Ellerslie.

The rent was expected to be $515 for the one-bedroom, and $480 for the studio. That’s $995 of income per week. Based on the purchase price of $915,000, the property would generate a 5.7% gross yield.

From the tenant’s perspective, apart from a shared entrance way, they are totally separate.

 

Q: Do apartments go up in value in New Zealand?

A: Yes, but they have tended to increase in value slower than townhouses or stand-alone houses.

Q: Is owning an apartment a good investment?

A: This depends on the type of investment you are looking for. Apartments can be a good fit for a first-time investor looking for an affordable entry point, or if you are an investor looking for a high-yielding property to complete a Wealth Wheel.

Q: Does owning apartments make money?

A: Apartments tend to be higher yielding than a townhouse or standalone house. For instance, a growth-focussed property, like a townhouse in Auckland, would likely yield between 4 - 4.75%.

But if you're investing in a dual-key apartment, which is considered a yield based investment, you could be attracting a rental yield of 5.5 to 6.5%

Where Are They Being Built?

Where Are Apartments Being Built? Where Can I Find Them?

According to Stats NZ, only 8.4% of all dwellings consented over the last 12 months are apartments.

Compare this to townhouses, which make up 36% of total residential dwelling consents.

Put another way, for every apartment being built, there are 4 townhouses built.

This means there is more choice in the market for investors wanting to purchase New Build townhouses.

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Generally speaking, apartments tend to be built in the middle of major cities.

Over the last 12 months (April 21 – Mar 22), 89% of consented apartments were in the Auckland or Wellington regions.

So, if you are planning to buy a New Build apartment, most of your options will be in the capital and the Queen city.

Are They Growth Or Yield?

Are Apartments Growth Or Yield Properties?

Apartments are generally thought of as a yield-based investment as opposed to a growth-based investment.

This means they earn higher income (on average), but they grow in value more slowly.

 

That doesn’t mean they don’t increase in value at all; they do – just at a slower rate.

In the capital growth race between townhouses, houses and apartments, data has shown apartments gained significantly less capital growth over the long term.

Capital growth apartments

Take a look at this graph comparing the average annual capital growth of townhouses and houses (red line) to apartments (blue line) over a 10-year period.

Between 1992 and 2021, townhouses and houses had substantially higher long-term capital growth than apartments … in every single period looked at.

This carries across all the major centres. For instance, here is the data for Wellington.

Capital growth Wellington

Here, the long-term capital growth rate for apartments was higher for a short time during the early 2000s, but that didn’t last long term.

This confirms that apartments really do increase at a slower rate than other property types.

Yet, despite their low-growth potential, some apartments partly compensate by providing higher rental returns. These tend to be the dual-keys.

For example, if you own a townhouse that is negatively geared by $100 a week, you might buy a dual-key apartment that earns $100 a week. This way the yield property pays for the growth property’s contributions.

However, not all apartments are high yielding.

For instance, high-end luxury apartments are typically both low yield and low growth.

These are often priced above the $1.5 million mark and sometimes well into the $2 million bracket. And while these apartments might be good for older Kiwis who are planning to downsize, they typically make poor investment properties.

Luxury apartments are good for owner-occupiers and retirees (downsizers), but often not a good investment.

This doesn’t mean luxury apartments are bad properties, it just means for investors they aren’t the best option for your money.

How Much Do They Cost?

How Much Does An Apartment Cost?

Obviously, apartments range in price and price depends on the spec (how nice the property is) and the location.

But here are a few examples to give you a rough idea of what real investors are currently paying.

For a more in-depth discussion, read our article about how much you should be paying for an investment property.

Standard apartment

Safari Group, a developer who builds apartments in Auckland, Wellington and Queenstown, is currently building “The Residences”, which is an apartment block in Ellerslie, Auckland.

The development has a mix of studio, 1-bed, 2-bed and dual-key apartments built over a Ramada Hotel.

The project featured on our show The Deal last year. Watch the episode here

The units went on sale in 2021 and are due to be completed in 2023.

Prices begin at $430,000 for a studio apartment (without a car park). A 1-bed apartment with a car park is $715,000, and a 2-bed apartment is $850,000.

Dual key

Dual-key apartments tend to be more expensive.

In Safari Group’s Ellerslie apartment block dual-key apartments start at $915,000 and go up to $990K.

Safari Group has another Auckland apartment block in Gillies Ave, Newmarket. Here, the dual-keys go for between $1.1 million and $1.3 million.

Dual key apartment

Luxury Apartment

To give you a sense of how much a luxury apartment costs, developer Aedifice is currently building a 53-unit block in Auckland’s Browns Bay.

They are being marketed as luxury apartments.

The 2-bedroom apartments start from $929,000; 3-bedroom apartments start from $1.525 million; and their most expensive penthouse apartment will set you back a cool $2.695m.

While Opes recommends some Aedifice properties to investors, these types of apartments would not pass our investment criteria.

We hear you, the dual-key prices we gave you in the paragraph prior had prices around the same mark. But the dual-key apartment is a bit of an anomaly because of its two titles, which means you can get two separate rental checks for the price of one title.

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What Are The Pros?

What Are The Pros Of Investing In An Apartment?

There are pros and cons for property investors wanting to purchase an apartment.

Let’s start with the pros.

Pro #1 Can be higher yielding

So, we’ve established that apartments aren’t generally considered growth properties.

But that’s OK because what they don’t offer in growth, they can often partially make up for in their higher than average yields.

In property investment there is often a trade-off between one or the other anyway – regardless of what you are purchasing.

Apartments interior

Pro #2 Low maintenance

Apartments have the benefit of needing minimal direct maintenance from the investor. That’s because they are subject to Body Corporate rules and levies.

This means everyone in the building or complex shares the cost of insurance, maintenance and upkeep.

All apartment owners are members of the Body Corporate and pay different amounts depending on the size of the apartment, car parks, and the sort of amenities within the building.

These varying figures are set by a registered valuer before the build begins, who takes into consideration the value and size of each unit compared to another.

While this is an added expense, it means investors can be reassured that any issues with the building will be taken care of by the already paid for body corporate fees.

This means less stress when unplanned issues arrive.

Pro #3 Can be in central city

Apartments are often located in convenient places such as town centres and are easy to find tenants for.

For instance, the Auckland apartments in Newmarket and Ellerslie are surrounded by dozens of businesses, shops and public transport – all factors that make them attractive places to live for young working professionals.

Most properties on Safari’s price list are similar to the average house price in the

suburb, making them a relatively affordable entry point into the Auckland market as well as being situated in a very central location.

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What Are The Cons?

What Are The Cons Of Investing In An Apartment?

But while there are pros to apartments, they also have their drawbacks.

Con #1 Lower growth

These properties are geared for yield. However, this means capital growth is slower than other properties.

This means these apartments are probably not the right fit for investors who are specifically looking for a high-growth element for their portfolio.

Con #2 Can be low-yield too

Generally speaking, apartments are high yielding. But this is not true for all.

As we have discussed above, this includes luxury apartments that sit at the much higher end of the price range.

While this may be a good option for owner-occupiers to live in or for a retiree looking to downsize, the rental return is unlikely to be worth it.

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Con #3 Difficult to renovate in future

A body corporate also sets the rules for the overall building, so you will need to get permission to make any renovations to your unit.

Apartments also tend to have relatively compact floor plans, so there is little room to reconfigure the apartment in future.

This lack of control may limit the amount of potential you could get out of your property and could eliminate a renovations-based strategy.

Apartment interior

Con #4 Body corporate can be expensive

Generally, body corporate fees should range from $2,500 - $4,500 annually, depending on what’s included.

However, sometimes the body corporate fees can be substantially higher than this.

This is especially true for some complexes that have elevators, pools and gyms. So if these nice-to-haves are within the building, expect to pay a bit more. If they’re not, expect to pay a bit less.

Similarly, some older buildings require more maintenance. That’s why they often have a ‘sinking fund’, also known as Long Term Maintenance fund. This covers long-term expensive costs.

But, if you are buying in an older building that has not had a sinking fund in place for long, you could find that you’ll pay an extra $5,000 per year (for example) in body corp fees.

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Are They The Right Fit?

Is An Apartment The Right Investment For Me?

All things considered, apartments can be a good investment for some investors, but they aren’t the right fit for everyone.

Apartments can be a more affordable entry point into the market for first time investors, and their location in city centres can mean successfully buying in an area you might otherwise be locked out of.

So this can make them an option for first home buyers, or investors on a limited budget.

And while apartments aren’t generally considered growth properties, they can partially make up for it in higher yields.

That can make them a good fit for investors who are nearing retirement and want to earn a passive income from their properties.

They can also be a good fit for investors wanting to complete a Wealth Wheel.

But they aren’t being built everywhere.

For example, if you are looking to invest outside Auckland or Wellington it is unlikely that an apartment will be the right fit for you.

Conclusion

Why Invest In An Apartment?

Ultimately, whether or not an apartment is a good investment comes down to the numbers, and deciding whether it is a good investment for your portfolio.

That’s why, here at Opes, we work with 58 developers from around NZ to find the right properties for Kiwi investors. And then once we find them, we rigorously run the numbers to offer good investment properties to our investors.

This means considering the apartment in an assessment of the location, the neighbourhood, the price, the rental capacity and the developer.

To find out more about how we find quality investment properties for investors click here to read about our property investment programme.

Who are Opes Partners?

Who are Opes Partners and can they help me?

What is the 3-Step Opes Coaching Programme?

1. Plan out your property investment portfolio

The first step in the programme is to co-create a plan using our MyWealth Plan software. We built this software specifically to help Kiwis create a financial plan in under an hour.

You'll leave this 1-hour session with a written down plan. Pen to paper.

2. Pick properties that fit with your plan

Once you've created your plan in step #1 – your property partner will go out and find properties that fit your plan. They'll search through projects from up to 58 developers to find the best ones for you.

When you meet again, you'll review the top picks, go through the analysis, crunch the numbers together, and then decide which ones to hold with the developer.

3. Dig into the details – Confirm it's the right property for you

Once you've selected a property, you'll work for 10 days to make sure it's the right property for you. So you'll work with your Property Partner and Client Relationship Manager to dig into the details of the property.

You'll go and look at the development and be introduced to mortgage brokers, solicitors, accountants, and property managers. Their sole job is to help you figure out if this property works for you.

And you’ll have access to all the resources, tools, and data … so when confirmation day comes, you have confidence you know you’re making the right decision.

Who is the Opes Coaching Programme the right fit for?

  • You understand the concept of property investment, but who wants help putting it into practice.
  • You want a “Done for you” property investment service, so you can be a hands-off investor.
  • You are someone who has at least a 10 year investment time horizon.
  • And finally, you’re ready to become a property investor.

Who is the Opes Coaching Programme is NOT the right fit for?

  • You’re more into the smell of paint or the colour of a wall than the numbers that stand behind an investment property.
  • You only want investments that are hands-on, so you can save a few dollars here and there.
  • You have plenty of time on your hands and want to do the property investment process yourselves.
  • You’re looking for an overnight success and want to get rich quickly.

What does it cost to work with Opes Partners and go through the programme?

It’s free. Complimentary. No Cost.

Why?

The developer pays us a marketing fee when you confirm that the property is the right fit for you. Very similar to the way a mortgage broker gets paid by the bank.

Now it's important to note that we are paid the same fixed rate no matter what property you invest in.

If it’s a $500k apartment in Christchurch or a $1.3 mil 3-bedroom townhouse in Ponsonby – we get paid the same rate.

That's important because then we can recommend the right property for you, and there's no incentive to recommend you invest in a more expensive property, just so we get paid more.

I want learn more about how Opes can help me

Learn more about the Opes Coaching Programme Here

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Laine Moger

Laine Moger has been a journalist and reporter for the last 6 years. She previously worked for Stuff, The North Shore Times and Radio NZ. She has a Bachelor of Communications (Honours) from Massey University and a Diploma of Journalism from the London School of Journalism.