Q: I’m house hunting in Sydney at the moment and really like older properties and the character they have. I’ve read some forums though that say to avoid buying a heritage listed property at all costs. Is buying a heritage property a bad idea?
A: I agree that heritage listed properties can be characterful and very beautiful, but I don’t agree that they should all be avoided. For a property to be listed as ‘heritage’, it needs to be unique, historically important or have architecture that is worth preserving.
There are different types of heritage properties though, which also have different rules and regulations around them. For example, in NSW there are heritage listed properties, or ‘heritage items’, which are typically famous landmarks or building of historical significance like The Mint. Then there are properties that are located in a heritage or ‘conservation area’, like buildings in certain suburbs or areas, which I think is probably more relevant to your property search.
It’s important to do your research and find out whether a property is heritage listed. Each state, territory and local council has its own heritage list or register, so in most cases you can search for it online, or call the local council’s Heritage Adviser and they should be able to help.
Generally speaking, here are a few potential pros and cons to buying a heritage property.
- Heritage properties can attract higher resale values because they, and often the surrounding area, are protected.
- You can have more certainty that the area you have bought is unlikely to be greatly changed, rezoned or developed, because it is protected.
- If you have a property of major heritage significance, you may be able to apply for grants or loans to help fund its upkeep or maintenance.
- If well maintained, the property will retain its appeal and only grow in rarity, and potentially value, with age.
- There are greater restrictions around development of heritage property, including how they can be renovated, the design and what building materials can be used.
- The cost of renovating a heritage property can also be higher owing to the need to use specific materials and specialists, such as an architect experienced in dealing with heritage properties who understands the rules and trade’s people qualified to carry out the work!
- Approvals for renovation or development can take longer as not only do you need to deal with the local council but relevant heritage bodies may also need to approve the works.
- Complete demolition of a property isn’t normally permitted, so knockdown rebuilds are most likely out of the question.
- Depending on the type and rarity of the property, home insurance may be harder to obtain so if you’re interested in a very rare property it’s probably worth doing some research on building insurance before making an offer.
- Heritage listed properties are old – that’s why they’re listed! Just make sure you do your due diligence and get building and pest inspections done so you know what you’re getting.
TIP! If you want to know whether a local council is receptive to renovation in a heritage area, take a closer look at neighbouring properties to see if any of them have been renovated, particularly extensions at the back that aren’t easily noticeable from the street. You can also look up lodged, pending and approved DA applications via council websites.
Have you bought a heritage property? Based on your experience would you recommend it to others; why or why not?
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