A member of your group may own land, as in the case of downsizers who want to redevelop the family home. Alternatively you may be a small group searching for property to buy together. Whatever the scenario, here are some key issues to consider.
Are multiple households allowed?
Check the applicable planning regulations - a crucial first step in understanding what’s possible. If it’s a single-dwelling site, check that multi-household development is allowed. This will depend on factors such as zoning and site area.
Can I amalgamate or subdivide?
If you propose to subdivide a site, amalgamate adjacent sites or do both (for example, your land might not be large enough for strata subdivision unless you amalgamate adjacent sites first) check first with council that this is allowed. Not all projects will seek to do this, it depends on how the residents want to manage ownership. See development approval for more on dealing with council regulations.
Real estate agents?
While a lot of real estate agents are not aware of collaborative housing options, some are. It’s worth checking with your local real estate agents to see if they can help. They will have a good knowledge of what is available in an area, the zoning restrictions and the potential for conversion of existing properties. In time, real estate agents may even start to play a role in connecting people up who have an interest in collaborative housing.
Suitability of the site
The characteristics of your site – including its shape, land area and street frontage – will influence how easy it is to design in multiple dwellings. Sites with dual street access (e.g. corner sites, rear lane access) tend to be ideal as they make it easier to provide multiple separate entries. Also look for a site that allows good solar orientation for private and shared living spaces.
You may want to seek the advice of an architect or designer early on to ensure your vision can be achieved on the site you own or want to buy. Concept design sketches will help you visualise what’s possible and aid any initial discussions with council.
Think through how your group wants property ownership to work.
For single-dwelling sites you’ll convert to accommodate extra households, there are various shared ownership options. If you’re purchasing property together, purchasing as tenants in common is probably the simplest route. If you’re buying into property someone else owns, you can become a tenant in common by updating the certificate of title.
You might also consider converting to a different title such as company or cooperative, or applying for strata subdivision if planning regulations permit. The title could impact on lending and valuation, so seek legal and financial advice first.
For adjacent sites, the choice will be whether to retain each site in separate ownership and share informally, or amalgamate the sites and set up shared ownership.
For small apartments or duplexes with strata title in place this is straightforward, as the strata title already provides a good structure for shared ownership.
See know the legalities for more information, and be sure to seek expert legal advice that’s tailored to your situation.
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