Capital of Victoria and home to around 4 million people, Melbourne is one of Australia's most elegant cities – and enjoys a wealth of renovation-ready properties
Famous for its fine parks, chic boutiques and sophisticated cafes, bars and restaurants, Melbourne has come a long way from its humble beginnings as a rustic camp on the banks of the Yarra River. The gold rush boom of the 19th century drew huge numbers of people to the area and the population quickly grew to more than a million, creating a surge in demand for housing in ‘Marvellous Melbourne’ as it was then known. Today, Sydney is the larger city, but Melbourne is still the financial, sporting and cultural capital of Australia.
Melbourne’s rapid growth and migrant mix is reflected in the mix of architectural styles evident in the city. For example, there are plenty of properties dating back to the Victorian (1840-90) and Edwardian (1890-1915) era, which are preferred by many buyers.
California bungalows, built around 1915-1930, lend themselves to renovations where the front portion of the home is retained and a contemporary build added to the rear. Art Deco homes, built between the wars (1920-1940), with their high ceilings, solid brick walls and more fluid floor plans have enduring appeal too. Renovators should note that even if a property is not state-listed, it is still likely to be subject to council heritage overlays, which should be checked before purchase.
Geoff Challis, Principal Architect at Venn Architects, says renovating period properties is rewarding. ‘Melbourne has beautiful period homes with terrific big backyards which, once stripped back, are in such good condition it makes sense to retain them and add new, modern living into these spaces. There may be challenges like rising damp, restumping of floors or the odd roof leak from flashing behind old chimneys, but once you’ve got the maintenance under control, the old part of the home is a great basis for renovation.’
Contemporary homes are also in high demand, particularly those of architectural note or those where a high profile architect was involved in the project.
Whatever your property preference, consider market trends before buying. Research company BIS Shrapnel forecasts an oversupply of 15,000 apartments in Melbourne (particularly those in high-rise buildings) by the middle of 2016, which could mean a fall in prices of up to 10 per cent over the next three years. However, as the population grows, there will be more demand for family homes, particularly detached houses.
Wesley Spencer, Director of Rara Architecture, says renovators wanting to create family-friendly properties need to do more than increase the number of bedrooms. ‘I advise people adding a bedroom to consider providing other things too – like another bathroom or parking space or a larger backyard,’ he says.
Melbourne enjoys a temperate climate, with cool winters, warm summers and comfortable springs and autumns, but the weather is known for its changeability. Consequently, modern homes need good insulation plus central heating and air conditioning or other climate control options.
Melbourne’s weather cycle also means that more than 100,000 properties in the area are at risk of riverine flooding, overland flows, coastal, tidal and storm surge flooding and rising sea levels. Before buying a property in Melbourne, it’s worth checking Melbourne water website to see if there is a flood risk.
Wesley Spencer cites Government website as an invaluable resource for renovators. ‘If you enter an address it tells you what overlays, constraints, restrictions and schedules there are. It’s also a fabulous website for finding personal information about your site such as the contours of the land and what other constraints and overlays apply to the area. You can find out if there’s an overlay that’s going to be applied to your area in the future. You can check it all out before you commit to purchasing and it doesn’t cost you anything’
Today’s buyers are likely to be impressed by sustainable options, such as tanks to collect rain and roof water, and permanent grey-water systems that divert washing machine water, for example, to the garden. The Victorian Government offers a number of rebates to residents including incentives for installing water-efficient appliances such as rainwater tanks and grey-water systems. Find out more at depi.vic.gov.au.
Renovators interested in making the most of locally generated renewable energy, will be pleased to hear that the State Government has teamed up with Positive Charge, a not for profit organisation helping home and business owners choose appropriate solar installations for their needs. It also helps arrange professional installation.
Wesley Spencer advises renovators to budget for technology: ‘Buyers often look for the latest technology like USB chargers, sound systems that run through the house or climate control they can access from their phone. We recommend a client with an average [renovation] budget of $300,000, spends around $30,000 on technology. It can’t all be done wirelessly, so do it when you’re renovating.’
Whatever your budget, Geoff Challis says Melbourne is a great place for renovators: ‘If you can commit a lot of money, you’re more able to do something grand, but you can do a simpler renovation by opening up the space, putting in wall-to-wall windows and perhaps a new kitchen, repainting and reflooring. Renovation in Melbourne is available to anyone - it’s always going to be possible to buy a home here and do it up a bit.’
This article by Persephone Nicholas featured in Renovate Magazine. Renovate is an easy to use resource providing fresh inspiration and motivation at every turn of the page, for ardent renovators seeking to integrate the latest products and technology into their homes.
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*All information is believed to be true at time of publishing and is subject to change.
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