Darryl Kerrigan: [pointing at the verandah] See that lattice up there?
Property Valuer: Yeah?
Darryl Kerrigan: Fake. Plastic. Gives the place a ‘Victoriana’ feel. Chimney? Fake too.
Property Valuer: Why’s it there?
Darryl Kerrigan: Charm. Adds a bit of charm.

 

Charm, as Darryl Kerrigan emphasises in this scene from the iconic Australian film ‘The Castle’, is an enduring value add to any home. Perhaps it’s a result of people spending more time at home or the drop in property prices, but we have seen insatiable demand for ‘Victoriana’ style period homes during these COVID times.

Beautiful period homes are a scarce commodity. Ornate ceilings, fire places, bay windows, original timber floorboards, stained glass windows – it all represents a point in history, and the emotive nostalgia these aspects drive converts into higher prices. Period homes are also one resilient property style, sought by all generations, with appeal on so many fronts.

The style of homes is not a style all builders are all skilled in creating or buyers have budget for. We are in a world of efficiencies now and spending two years building something to last 100+ years doesn’t excite all businesses or buyers. Developers and builders are predominantly in the volume or ‘contemporary home’ game now. Plus, in our culture of ‘immediate rewards’, most of us want our new home in six to eight months.

But before you embark on your period home hunt, here are a few factors you should consider:

  • The sheer age of the property means the roof, plumbing and electrical fittings can be extremely old and need replacing. Terracotta pipes for plumbing – which were standard at the time of build – often have tree roots penetrating the joints which can be a problem for household waste water. Replacing these hidden items can be expensive and don’t always add the value they deserve. Most buyers reserve their excitement for marble splash backs and polished concrete floors.
  • There is often poor access under the house means re-stumping can difficult and if there is evidence of termite damage at inspection (which there often is) doing a more thorough inspection can be impossible. Factoring these unknowns into the price you pay is important.
  • Heritage facades can limit the development scope, with most councils only allowing two levels to ensure there is no overbearing structures dwarfing the beautiful façade. Additionally, council approval for renovations can be an onerous and expensive process that requires much patience and perseverance.

 

Here’s a recent case study that exemplifies these points.

We recently helped a client acquire this heritage property in Port Melbourne with a ‘buy and renovate’ strategy.

We secured the home for $1.9m although it has potential to be worth $2.7-2.8m with some non-structural reconfiguring of the layout, two bathroom makeovers and a new kitchen.

Port Melbourne is old swamp land so we expected termites … and found them. The home had been treated for termites which was encouraging; however, you can never be sure without ripping up the floors.

Our building inspector, Brett White from Inspect East, determined the roof needed replacing and while he was in the roof (yes, we don’t take short cuts with our building inspections) he noticed part of the fire place was broken and this has created a water leak. Water is the nemesis of all healthy foundations so this will need fixing as a priority.

Despite these flaws, the house is in exceptional condition for a circa 100 year old dwelling. There are always considerations with period homes. Unlike Darryl Kerrigan’s personal castle, these cannot always be rectified with the ‘charm’ of a fake chimney and lattice so expect a long and detailed report. Plumbing and electrical issues are common and expected so make sure you budget at least an extra $20-30k for unforeseen issues.