The new broom bringing confidence back to the multi-residential market
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The new broom bringing confidence back to the multi-residential market

Buyers had more chance of winning $20 million in the lottery than buying into a building with no defects, one expert says

By Mercedes Maguire
Tue, Mar 14, 2023 8:30amGrey Clock 5 min

Most of us watched in disbelief as the nightly news flashed reports about the thousands of residents evacuated from their western Sydney apartment block on Christmas Eve 2018. The dire warning of a possible collapse in the Opal Tower came after several residents reported hearing loud cracks in the apartment block of 392 homes at Sydney Olympic Park. Structural cracks were found in the pre-cast concrete panels.

Months later, 130 residents were given hours to flee their 10-storey Mascot apartment building after cracks were discovered in the basement raising concerns of collapse. They were never able to move back in.

These homeowners became the very public face of the poor standards plaguing the $24 billion NSW building and property development industry. But you didn’t have to end up on the six o’clock news to empathise.

Four in 10 new residential apartment blocks in NSW have serious defects at an average cost of more than $330,000 a building, according to the Strata Community Association of NSW, with waterproofing and fire safety the most common problems.

And up until recently, the only avenue homeowners had to seek help was negotiating directly with the builder or developer, or embarking on a lengthy and expensive legal battle to get the defects rectified.

For more stories like these, order your copy of the autumn issue of Kanebridge Quarterly magazine here.

When the first NSW building commissioner was appointed in 2019 under the Berejiklian government, changes came swiftly. David Chandler, a 40-year veteran of the building industry, was armed with legislative powers to overhaul the state’s residential building sector — the RAB or Residential Apartment Buildings (Compliance and Enforcement Powers) Act — in what was called once-in-a-generation reforms.

And he wasted no time doing exactly that. The reforms included the power for Chandler to issue developers with orders to rectify serious defects before granting them an occupation certificate.

“The RAB Act was a turning point, it was an important piece of legislation which is quite unprecedented in the country…I’m the only regulator who has the powers that are in the RAB Act,” Chandler says. “It really needed to be brought in; it switched the balance to give consumers a much better standing than perhaps they have had in the past. In effect, it allows me to stop the issuance of an occupation certificate, and therefore consumers ultimately being forced to settle on their apartments.

“I use those powers very, very cautiously, but I have used them.”

Chandler also backed moves to give more power to apartment owners, pointing out that they had less consumer protection than someone buying a toaster or washing machine. To this end, he supported the creation of a ratings system for developers — the independent Construction Industry Rating Tool or iCIRT — to help homeowners arm themselves against buying apartments with defects.

Prior to this, homeowners had few, if any, resources to have defects fixed. A 2012 report by the UNSW City Futures Research Centre found 72 percent of apartment blocks in NSW had defects and in newer units it was as high as 85 percent.

Building commissioner David Chandler has moved swiftly to improve the standards of residential apartment construction in NSW.

An unregulated industry where tight deadlines and budgets to complete major works were written into contractual agreements between builders and sub-contractors led to cost cutting and a rise in defects.

“It was shocking,” says executive director of the Owners Corporation Network of Australia, Karen Stiles, about the state of the residential apartment sector before Chandler’s appointment. 

“You had more chance of winning a $20 million lottery than you did of having a building with no defects.”

 “Unfortunately most of us fall in love with the glossy brochure. That’s why iCIRT is so good. We are so used to seeing a ratings system on electrical appliances and cars but until now there has never been one on builders and developers.

“I’m hearing reports of people taking back their deposits when they discover a developer is not rated. It’s a really powerful card to play for a prospective buyer.”

Mirvac was the first major property developer to be rated on iCIRT and is the only company to have a five-star rating. Mirvac was awarded the five-star rating following a detailed, independent and rigorous review and Stiles hopes their addition will encourage other major developers to come forward and be added to it.

“Raising the standard of construction in NSW is critically important to protect purchasers and restore confidence in buying off the plan and newly built apartments,” says Mirvac’s head of residential Stuart Penklis about iCIRT.

Stephen Brell, president of the Strata Community Association of NSW, believes a new scheme called Project Intervene — which allows homeowners to bypass the courts and engage directly with a developer to fix defects with the support of NSW Fair Trading and the NSW Building Commissioner — is the most exciting new reform to come out of Chandler’s reign.

“It’s a really cost effective program and removes the often combative and expensive legal element from the process of having defects rectified,” he says. 

“Before, the onus of proof was on the owners corporation, so you would spend tens of thousands of dollars to identify the defects and then tens of thousands to get it through the courts. But Project Intervene only works if the builder has not gone into receivership.”

Another positive move is the introduction of a decennial insurance product which allows owners corporations to have serious defects fixed by builders for up to 10 years after the building is first occupied. Brell says the positive changes Chandler has brought in don’t just help homeowners, but all elements of the industry, including the vast majority of honest builders who now have a way to distance themselves from the dodgy developers in the market.

With Chandler set to retire in August, there is hope that the sweeping changes he made will be upheld.

“Chandler has set up a legacy system for NSW,” says Brell. “He has a great team and two significant and brand new pieces of legislation: the Design and Building Practitioners Act and the Residential Apartment Buildings (Compliance and Enforcement Powers) Act. This will give the commissioner’s office certain powers to last beyond Chandler’s retirement.”

Chandler himself is hopeful for the future of the NSW residential apartment industry and wants to pass on this positive outlook to a new generation.

“I am (hopeful) because the industry doesn’t want to go back to where it came from,” Chandler says. “The other challenge we also have is to make sure we have tomorrow’s workforce; we were facing a situation where young people were hearing such horrendous stories about our industry that their parents were doing everything in their power to dissuade them from coming into our industry, which is a great industry.

“So we’re working with TAFE, we’re working with a whole range of employer groups to attract the next workforce, which has got to be a composition of male and female. 

“If by 2025 we can lift the number of women in our industry up to 20 per cent that would be a great outcome, and if a few years down the track we can raise it to another level, that would be great.”


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Just 55 minutes from Sydney, make this your creative getaway located in the majestic Hawkesbury region.

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Expert tips for prospective buyers looking to purchase a home in 2024.

By Josh Bozin
Fri, Apr 12, 2024 3 min

For aspiring homeowners, be it a first-time buyer, downsizer, or investor, picturing your idea of homeownership bliss is the easy part. But before deliberating on furniture choices or scouting for that perfect neighbourhood coffee, understanding your purchasing power stands out as the most important step in ensuring your success in homeownership.

And with the Australian property market gaining momentum in 2024, there’s never been a better time to come to grips with your financial options.

In 2023, amid the changing financial landscape that saw rising interest rates and the cost of living skyrocket, among other factors, the total amount borrowed for property purchases across Australia was estimated at $300.9 billion, a 12.7 percent decrease from the previous year, according to PEXA’s latest Mortgage Insights Report.

Each mainland state also experienced a decline in new lending, according to the report, with Victoria and New South Wales seeing the biggest drops to $84.1 billion and $109.5 billion, respectively.

While this trend reflects the repercussions of such financial hardships on the everyday Australian, John Morello, director and auctioneer at Jellis Craig, said we’re seeing renewed confidence in the property market during the first quarter of 2024, particularly in Melbourne.

“Auction clearance rates have started the year strongly and consumer sentiment is rising. This lift is driven by cooling inflation and an improved outlook on interest rates. At Jellis Craig, as with the rest of the market, we are experiencing an increase in volume of property compared to the same period in March last year (up 28% in 2024),” Mr Morello said.

“Melbourne’s property market, in particular, is showing its ongoing evolution and resilience.”

PEXA’s report revealed that, while borrowing saw a decrease in 2023 in Australia, Australians still invested $613.0 billion in property purchases in 2023. In 2024, purchasing confidence is only going up, as prospective first home buyers, seasoned downsizers, and savvy investors look to capitalise on a flood of new property hitting the market, coupled with the lowering of interest rates across the board.

“With more certainty in the economic outlook, along with an increase in volume of property available, we are seeing these factors translate to early signs of a boost in confidence in both buyers and sellers,” said Mr Morello.

“Further encouraging data shows that whilst there is more property available to purchase, more people are inspecting property, again indicating that demand has increased broadly across our marketplace.”

If you’re in the market for a new property, the biggest question you must ask yourself is how much house can I afford?

A great starting place is to speak with your mortgage broker or financial professional, who can guide you on your lending options. This is critical, as you need to know what your future repayment options might look like, and ultimately, what you will typically be able to afford.

A useful tool for judging whether you can afford a specific property is to factor in the 28/36 rule — a rough guide that suggests you should not spend more than 28 percent of your gross monthly income on housing, and no more than 36 percent on all debts. Another useful tool is the idea of a debt-to-income ratio (DTI); a formula whereby an individual can divide all of their monthly debt payments by gross monthly income to arrive at a number that one can measure as a way of managing monthly mortgage payments.

Mr Morello emphasised the need to understand affordability and what’s feasible for each individual when looking to make a purchase, no matter the budget, on a property in 2024.

“It’s pivotal to work out what you can afford. Get your finances in order. Consider all associated costs with buying, and research what concessions and grants are available,” said Mr Morello.

“It’s easy for individuals to begin the process today. Start actively searching potential properties on a weekly basis, and research areas you are interested in. Check weekly sales results, attend inspections and auctions, to get a feel for the process. Just remember, it’s important to be really comfortable in understanding your living expenses, and what the ongoing expenses will be once you have bought a property.

“For example, mortgage repayments, council rates, water, power, owners corp fees, insurances, maintenance costs; if you are buying as an investment, the Land Tax payable on that property which is an ongoing tax. There’s many factors to consider.”

To see what’s possible for your specific circumstances, visit our Finance Portal for specific tools, guides and tips—as well as our own mortgage calculator—to assist you on your property journey.


35 North Street Windsor

Just 55 minutes from Sydney, make this your creative getaway located in the majestic Hawkesbury region.

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