The nature of strata titles (multiple owners as oppose d to freehold) makes the task of redevelopment of such properties a difficult and costly exercise.The market has seen various mixed developments with a small commercial strata component enter the market over the past 10 year s, however only four strata developments of significance been completed during this period.
The most recent completion was 75 Miller Street, purchased by Lend Lease in 2005, which was sub-divided in 2006, however weak demand led to the strata suites being withdrawn from sale. Prior to this, Milsons Landing at 6A Glen Street was completed in 2004 comprising an NLA of 5,000 sq m across 45 strata offices and the Blade at 71 Walker Street, completed in 2003 comprising an NLA of 1,800 sq m across 20 commercial suites.
The only strata development of significance currently in the pipeline is the Luna Park site at Milsons Point, which is still in early planning stages for 2,350 sq m of strata space.Build-to-suits are the norm due to lack of modern industrial product. Outside of Mexico, there is a low supply of speculative buildings, making overbuilding unlikely.
North Sydney’s strata vacancy rate decreased from 10.7% in July 2006 to 7.1% in January 2007 (Property Council of Australia). This represents a strong decrease of 360 basis points and has brought strata vacancies back below the freehold vacancy of 7.4% for the first time since January 2005 and is below Sydney CBD strata vacancy of 7.7%.The strata leasing market picked up in the second half of 20 06 with net absorption for the 6 month period at 8,423 sq m. This was offset by a weak start to the year, with negative -733 sq m, bringing the annual net absorption to 7, 690 sq m. This take up of space followed weak demand (-6,981 sq m) in 2005.
2006 saw some investor demand return to the market with $35.34 million exchanged across 69 strata office suites with an average size of 110 sq m and value of $4,685/sq m (up 3% from 2005). However, sales volume has not reached the levels of the booms years of 2002 and 2003 which collectively accounted for $101.77 million of sales (see figure 5), driven by new supply entering the market an d investor demand on the back of strong capital growth, sales activity has been subdued from 2004 since the completion of the Blade in 2003 and pre-sales of Milsons Landing.
As the largest strata market on the Lower North Shore, North Sydney accounted for 48% of strata office sales transacted in the region during 2006. Private investors and owner occupiers remain the primary participants in the strata office market. Competition from alternative asset classes, such as tax effective superannuation and high yielding equities with the benefit of liquidity and minimal purchase costs.The service of property valuers reduced affordability of strata assets following years of strong capital growth.
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