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Not All Apartments are the Same
04/11/2006 By National House Buyers Association
Published in Iproperty Magazine

Where people used to buy an apartment unit for a roof over their heads, of late, so many other styles have crept up to boggle the minds of investors and buyers alike.

However, for the uninitiated, not all apartments are created equal. Although the sales brochures may look alike the small prints would tell you the difference. Then again, for those first timers,
they are unlikely to spot the difference. This article would shed some light for those who have yet to decide on the various offers of apartment projects available.

This is the definition from Wikipedia: A condominium, or condo for short, is a form of housing tenure. It is the legal term used in the United States and in most provinces of Canada for a type of joint ownership of real property in which portions of the property are commonly owned and other portions are individually owned. In Australia and the Canadian province of British Columbia, the legal term for this is known as strata title. In Québec, it is known as syndicates of co-ownership. Colloquially, the term "condo" is often used to refer to the apartment unit itself in place of the term "apartment". This clearly signifies ownership of the property.

In Malaysia, colloquially, when one says one lives in a Condo rather than in an apartment unit, it signifies luxury apartment with recreation facilities. Also in Malaysia, strata titles refer to the ownership papers of all types of subdivision in a subdivided building whether residential or commercial.

What is 'serviced apartments'?
In the past, "serviced apartments" in Malaysia have always been associated with 'hotels'. Not anymore, if you look at the offers available from developers in almost every state.

There are many variations to 'serviced apartments', if one has been studying the advertisements in the local papers eg. , Residences, Condotel, Serviced Suites, Serviced Condominium. The range of facilities and services will depend on the development but it basically means the same.

The National Property Information Centre [NAPIC] in its Property Stock Report has two definitions for 'serviced apartments'.

In its Leisure Property Stock Report, 'serviced apartments' are defined as - "... including all units that are owned and run by hoteliers or other corporations as an alternative to hotel accommodation" and "... leisure accommodation that can be sold to individuals who may rent it to other individuals or companies or occupy it themselves" in its Residential Property Stock Report.

What's the difference?

The difference is in the land. Call the project by any name, but if it is erected on any land designated for or approved for commercial development, it is not considered 'housing accommodation' as defined under the Housing Development (Control and Licensing) Act (Housing Act). Even if the developer has intended his project to be a housing accommodation or part housing accommodation, the present Housing Act will not accord protection to the buyers. In the event of any dispute, the only legal recourse a buyer will have is the terms of the contractual agreement with the developer.

Duplex Apartments: Duplex apartments consist of an apartment on the bottom floor as well as one above it.

Penthouse: Penthouses are normally the units on the highest floor of an apartment building. It is associated with spaciousness and are sometimes also duplexes consisting of two floors.

Residences: Another name for Serviced Apartments

Serviced Apartments: Apartments built on commercial land, normally managed by a third party and includes business-like facilities normally not found in residential apartments.

Studio Apartments: A studio apartment refers to an apartment on one floor that only has basically one large room (other than the bathroom).

Townhouses: A townhouse is like an apartment, except it features two floors or 1 ½ floors for the owner. Townhouses are situated in rows, so unless your unit is at the end, you will have a neighbor on either side as well as sharing floor space with one neighbour with one vertical neighbour. More like an actual house, a town house can give a family more space and a comfortable feel. Unlike ground floor duplex apartments that this writer has seen, townhouses feature parking bays & small gardens on grounds of the lower unit.

SOHO Styled Apartments: SOHO is the acronym for small office/home office, a term that refers to the small or home office environment and the business culture that surrounds it. A SOHO is also called a virtual office.

There are developers offering working space attached to bedrooms or at different areas of the apartment unit. Some of these units have separate entrance independent of the main area. Some developers have also called their projects, SOHO, to mean mixed developments consisting of shops, offices & apartment units.

Common Property
For apartment-type property, you own not only your individual unit, but also a share of the common property. Common property usually includes pipes, wires, and other services contained within a floor, wall or ceiling of a building shown on the strata plan. Common property may also include such facilities as parking, recreational facilities and common storage areas, as well as the roof and the exterior walls.

Strata Title & Management Corporation
Just like residential apartments, all commercial apartments with multiple owners including shopping complexes will eventually be issued with strata titles and the duty to manage & maintain the common property would then be shifted to the owners through the formation of their Management Corporation.

With all the different types of apartments available, one is sure to find something that is suitable for one's lifestyle. It is important that one ventures into buying an apartment unit with open eyes and understands all the legal implications as well as the financial commitment, as the purchase of a property attaches one to duties and responsibilities of contribution towards the common fund for management & maintenance of the common areas of the buildings and not just the individual units one dreamed of.


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