Reinventing apartment living

As more people seek the benefits of apartment life, apartments are getting more spacious, connected to amenity, and are increasingly lifestyle-oriented.

27 October 2022

Spacious designs, luxury amenities and concierge services are just some of the exciting changes underway. For a long time, Australia’s apartment sector boomed in growth, but not equally in reputation. The sector became known for being rigid in terms of the options it offered buyers and there was some stigma around quality.

The bright news is, as more people have sought the benefits of apartment life, things have dramatically changed. Apartments are getting more spacious, connected to amenity and lifestyle oriented, with more innovations to come.

“Apartment living in Australia is turning a corner,” says Nicola Tandy, National Sales Director at REA Group.

“There's a lot of really exciting things happening in this space that weren't happening even just a few years ago.”

A new generation of developments are helping to reinvent apartment living in Australia. Picture: Midtown MacPark

Out with the old

Apartments in Australia were once a niche offer, explains Matthew Allen, Director of architectural firm Bates Smart. Most buyers were instead seeking the great Australian dream - a block of land with a family home and their own front and back gardens.

“The apartment started its life catering to a very small segment of the population, mainly one and two-bedroom apartments in inner-urban locations that were all about affordability,” he says.

Tall towers without much regard for design became increasingly common sights in capital cities or popular beachside towns. Tandy says a lot of demand was from investors and offshore buyers, not owner-occupiers. This led to what she calls “investor-style stock – much smaller plates, not a lot of windows and on the pokier side”.

Nigel Edgar, General Manager National Development at Frasers Property Australia, adds that apartments often had no on-site, internal or surrounding benefits to enhance the lifestyle experience for residents.

“Just a building on a parcel which had no connection, probably didn't have a lot of amenity,” he says. “If you're lucky, you had an undercover lockup car parking space.”

A fresh approach

When the potential benefits of improved apartment living started to hit the mainstream, interest from owner-occupiers grew. However, these buyers didn’t just want a ‘shoe-box’, explains Tandy, but rather a complete living experience similar to what they would get with a house.

“Apartment buyers actually shifted to owner-occupiers – and we saw developers having to shift the type of stock they supplied to market to really cater to the needs of those owner-occupiers,” she says.

Apartment buyers are now seeking a complete living experience similar to what they would get with a house. Picture: Midtown MacPark

Allen says the small studios and one-bedroom apartments are still out there for people that want them, but there are now far more configurations to choose from.

“I think over the last couple of decades, we've really seen a huge breadth in the number of options out there, and there's also large family dwellings,” he says.

Delivering even more

The best developers didn’t stop at offering variety, but rather have turned apartment living into an experience that is comparable to – or even better than – a stand-alone residence.

Tandy says developers are now offering bigger outdoor spaces and spacious balconies. Facilities such as communal gardens, gyms, bars and rooftop pools have almost become expected.

Apartment developments of today also have a much higher level of on-site and local amenity, from mixed-use retail to transport services, points out Edgar.

He adds that families in particular are benefiting from being connected to expansive local green spaces where there is room to ride bikes, play sports, picnic and relax.

“Many of the best developments are walkable, meaning you can park your car and not need it for days on end. And that's highly attractive to people now,” says Edgar.

Facilities such as communal gardens, gyms and rooftop pools have almost become expected with new apartments. Picture: Midtown MacPark

Innovations on the way

Many of these changes are just the beginning of the innovations underway for Australian apartment living, explains Allen.

“In built-to-rent, you're seeing apartments almost verging on hotels with the service you are provided by the building managers,” he says.

Tandy adds that this concierge-style living means residents can enjoy things such as dry-cleaning services and grocery concierge, or they can book private access to in-built cinemas, rooftop pools and bars.

“A lot of developers will have apps for their communities where you can book a gym session or yoga class,” she says.

The best apartment developments offer a range of top quality amenities at your doorstep. Picture: Midtown MacPark

Creating a sense of community is also on the minds of the best apartment developers. Allen says this often means there are social events, courses and outings to be involved in.

“They're all being provided to cater to a bunch of different lifestyle choices and can all happen within your own building,” he says.

Tandy sums up the evolution perfectly: “The sky's the limit now in terms of what's available to people interested in apartment living.”