Apartment Extension

Monday 27th February, 2017

Whitehouse Concepts recently completed an extension with a twist; being that is was actually an apartment!  That’s right, extensions aren’t just for houses and if the building structure is right, you can also do extensions to apartments.  The process in which you go about these extensions is quite different to a house because there is a body corporation involved, but the rewards outweigh the extra hassle as apartments are typically smaller with limited outside area and any extension work adds immediate value.

Rooftop mountain added to an apartment in China.

Rooftop mountain added to an apartment in China.


The Planning Process

The apartment chosen for the project was a top floor apartment in the middle of Wollongong.  The 3-bedroom apartment was purchased in 2012 for $350,000 and when brought, I saw that two balconies were separated from an adjacent concrete roof area that already had a concrete up-stand that could be used for fall protection.  People living in the apartments on that floor had said they often climb over the dividing walls to use those roof spaces already for drying clothes.  Right from the start, I had always thought there would be an opportunity to extend the balconies.

With the apartment purchased in 2012 for $350,000, with the recent boom in Wollongong, it’s now worth around $600,000!

After renting the apartment for a few years, it was time to start looking into what was required for the extension to happen.  The first step was to measure the apartment and outside areas and draw up some plans, which were done through Whitehouse Concepts.  It was difficult sourcing original plans of the building, with council having limited documentation and the original design company ceasing to exist.  These plans then went to an annual general meeting of the building corporation to present the idea.  The meeting went well, but rightly so, the main concern was how the unit entitlements and strata fees would be adjusted for the additional area.  The unused roof area is actually owned by the building corporation, so they were looking to be compensated for the purchase of that unused area.  I had investigated the cost of having the building unit entitlements adjusted and in the end found the cost of doing that far outweighed any potential cost the adjustment would result in, so we finally agreed on a one off lump sum payment for the exclusive use of that roof area that otherwise represented an adjustment to strata fees over a long period of time.

An additional 25 meters squared added to the existing apartment balcony
An additional 25 meters squared added to the existing apartment balcony

Once approved by the building strata at an extraordinary general meeting, an exclusive use by-law was created and the plans and associated documentation produced by Whitehouse Concepts were lodged as a Development Application (DA) with council.  Even though the work involved with the extension was minimal (under $5,000), council took almost 6 months to assess the DA given the out-of-the-ordinary project.  I wasn’t in a rush given there were tenants renting the apartment.  When finally approved, it lined up with tenants moving and I had a 10 day window to complete the extension.  I first applied for a construction certificate and found that if the works are under $10,000, you don’t need either a builder or owner builders permits, which simplifies the process.

The Extension Work

The week came to start the extension and there was a lot of physical labour.  Over the course of 7-days we removed two trailer loads of pebbles by hand from the extension area, knocked out three dividing brick walls and took away 3 trailer loads of bricks, rendered and painting the areas of wall affected by the demolition and then laid 30m2 of pavers before finishing off the edges with pebbles for drainage.  In addition to this, a contractor was brought in to do a small addition to the railing and council inspected the start and finish.

The result was outstanding with an additional 30m2 of outside area added to the apartment, effectively doubling the outside area available.  The light and airy space was finished well and has a lovely and private aspect over the city centre.

An additional 5 meters squared added to a second balcony
An additional 5 meters squared added to a second balcony

The Final Result

Though the physical work only took about 10 days, the project itself took almost 2 years through all the planning and approvals.  The total cost of the extension including all approvals, strata payments and by-laws was $6,200.  The completed extension added a potential $15,000 to the apartment value and $15pw in rent, resulting in a profit of around $9,000.  With the apartment purchased in 2012 for $350,000, with the recent boom in Wollongong, it’s now worth around $600,000!

Future Apartment Extensions Projects

In the future, I’d like to build off the concept of buying strata owned area and believe a great project would be to buy the roof area of an older style apartment block and actually build a penthouse on top, provided the building structure allows.  This project would suit a block that’s in need of a renovation, but the strata committee doesn’t have the money.  You could offer to pay for all the necessary renovation work for the exclusive use of the roof area and aid water proofing at the same time, perhaps even add an elevator for the aging residents.

Example of the type of apartment that could suit an additional penthouse addition on top.
Example of the type of apartment that could suit an additional penthouse addition on top.

Written by Michael Whitehouse (Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin)
Edited by Vivian Pham (Linkedin, Twitter)

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