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It’s time to make a confession. I had worked in Property Management or related assistant roles – for over a decade when I applied for my role at Merrifield Real Estate – and I didn’t really understand what I was applying for in their Strata Management department. In fact, even after landing the role and spending a full 12 months shadowing their Strata Manager learning the ropes, it was still another year or so before I truly felt comfortable in explaining what Strata Management actually is!
It is a theme that I notice a lot as a Strata Manager. When I’m with my friends and family, meeting new people at a BBQ, or sitting with other parents as I watch my boys play sport, I am often met with a fearful look when I answer what I do for work. “Strata? Isn’t that really complicated?” often it’s “I have heard that’s always dealing with petty disputes over driveways!” or “We looked at a unit once but it was the strata costs that made us back away.” And yes, it can be complicated, it is sometimes dealing with disputes and there are costs involved, but it is a lot more than that too.
The word ‘strata’ comes from the Latin stratum, which means something that is laid down, or spread out. So, if you think about a block of apartments (which stack in layers) you can see how strata came to be used in language around buildings, and then into property law. Basically though, if there is a group of buildings containing common property then they fall into the strata category.
Now, there isn’t tons of high-rise buildings in Albany with apartments stacked in layers, I know. But if you take a look as you drive around town, you will start to see how many multi-unit sites there are in residential areas. And it’s not just residential. Lots of our town’s commercial spaces are also strata lots, and these buildings require different management to a stand-alone house or business.
In a strata complex, the Strata Company collects levies from each individual owner to cover the shared costs relating to the building complex. This includes insurance for all buildings, and maintenance expenses for shared items like plumbing, roofing, driveways and so on – considered each year in the company budget, from which levies are calculated. These companies can be small, and able to be managed without appointing a manager like myself. Others though, can contain dozens of units and dozens of individual owners, and this is where we come in.
Appointing a Strata Manager takes the stress out of ownership. We are here to help owners manage their buildings. Often it is simply acting as a go-between for owners, working hard to keep multiple owners as happy as we can. Ok, so I make that sound simple but believe me – it is a developed skill to be able to communicate and negotiate with up to 50 owners in one strata company!
I now understand why it is a stand-alone department within Merrifield’s! There is definitely a lot of work to be done.
What I love the most though, is that the main aims from my Property Management years have transferred across. I am here to help owners maintain value in their home, or to help them protect their investment property. I enjoy this – I have a great support team in the office and in our sub-contractors – and I love knowing that I’m removing the stress of strata ownership for my clients.
So, there it is. Strata does not need to be as difficult, or scary as it first seems. There are actually so many positives to this type of property, especially when it is managed well!
By Selena Taylor – Strata Manager