Recently, I did something that, ordinarily, you’re not supposed to do until you are at least heading for retirement and the kids have left home. While I don’t as yet have children, my wife and I sold up our five bedroom house in the suburbs and with our dog, the three of us moved to a three bedroom apartment in the inner-city; the reactions have been somewhat interesting with some saying they wish they could bring themselves to do it, while others questioning the sense (particularly when I speak often about the unit oversupply in inner Brisbane). So why did we do it?
When two people and a dog live in a five bedroom house, it’s a lot of work. Not only do you have to keep the place clean but there are ongoing maintenance costs. My wife is Canadian and we both believe that people would be seeing plenty of friends and family travelling to Brisbane to see us so we needed a big house. In all reality, it’s been somewhat different with our wedding being the only time we have had anyone stay with us. Given this, you find yourself closing off and not using many rooms in the house.
Added to the maintenance woes, I am not a handyman at all. I mean I can change a tyre, tighten something with a screwdriver or a spanner and hammer a nail into the wall but that’s about it. When you have a big house, particularly a ‘Queenslander’ as we had, there is a lot of work that goes along with that. Furthermore, there is also lawn mowing and a garden to be done. While mowing the lawn is pleasurable enough (as long as it isn’t every weekend in summer), neither my wife nor I have a particularly green thumb so the amount of work around the house can be tiresome.
Where we previously lived was also close to (across the River from) the Brisbane airport. People say that you get used to traffic noise but I beg to differ. In the four and a half years we lived in our house we noticed aircraft noise becoming increasingly disruptive and with a second runway being built at the airport we could only see it becoming worse. In fact at certain times it was so disruptive that you could not even have a conversation nor hear the television despite how loud you put it up.
Obviously this is not a first-world problem, but for us, it was a big consideration in moving.
With family overseas, my job requiring a lot of interstate travel it becomes a lot of work to organise for maintenance of a house while you are away. The interstate travel also means that most of the housework needs to be done on the weekend when quite honestly, I would rather be doing almost anything else.
We have recently moved from our five bedroom house in Cannon Hill in Brisbane’s eastern suburbs to a three bedroom ground floor unit in West End in the inner city. Although we have much less space than in our Queenslander, we now have significantly more amenities close by, we can walk everywhere (if I wasn’t so lazy I could walk to work but the bus comes every five to ten minutes). There are also plenty of pubs and restaurants close by and we are closer to work and the CBD. Living in the inner city, we very rarely hear aircraft noise and, despite being surrounded by many other units, over the first two months, we have found our area to be extremely quiet.
The big question we have been asked is what happens if/when you have kids? My response to this is that plenty of kids around the world grow up in smaller units than what we live in. And, I’m not talking about undesirable cities either think of how many families live in the larger European and American cities, you see very few houses anywhere near the city centre. We chose a unit of a good size, in a building which is predominately lived in by owner occupiers with onsite amenities and directly adjacent to parks and the river and nearby to schools.
Although apartment living often gets a bad wrap (of which I have been guilty of myself in the past), the right product in the right location I have found to be extremely appealing. One of the reasons apartment living often gets frowned upon is because many buildings are not designed to think about the liveability, particularly as the owner’s lifecycle shifts.
Over recent years many of the new inner-city unit developments have been very much targeted at investors with little consideration for someone that may want to buy and live in an apartment for the foreseeable future. In saying that, when the right consideration is given to the product type, product size, the local amenities and the location there is no reason why apartment living should not be seen as a viable alternative to detached houses especially given that it generally comes at a much more affordable price point. There is also no reason why increasing densities in a sensible manner in inner and middle ring suburbs should be as frowned upon as it is. Sensible being the operative word which has not always been the case over recent years in many inner city areas.