Read this before you buy a heritage property

Heritage-listed homes are important pillars of our community, preserving the design elements of a bygone era. Here's what you need to know if you are in the market for a beautiful, historical building.

If the property you've fallen in love with has a heritage listing, there's no need to be afraid. These conditions will still let you have some freedom around renovating - you just need to familiarise yourself with the rules before you make any drastic changes. 

Looking to buy

Dominique Grubisa, property development specialist and founder of the DG Institute says that directing the right questions to your real estate agent and forming a relationship with your local council is key to navigating a heritage-listed home.

"Always bear in mind that agents have a duty to disclose items that they are aware of regarding the listing, but always rely on the contract for your exact terms and restrictions," she says.

When viewing a heritage-listed home, Dominique suggests asking the following questions:

  • Are there any known heritage listings on the property?
  • Have any properties currently listed in the area been renovated?
  • Does the heritage listing affect resale price?

Small changes

"Generally speaking, heritage listings affect the external facade of the building and the ability to change or demolish certain features," says Dominque. Rewiring and adding things like phone lines or the internet to make it liveable to a modern standard shouldn't require approval from the council.

"It depends on each council, however, generally if it is minor in nature, it's to do with the maintenance of a heritage item or if the change would not adversely affect the significance of the heritage item or conservation area, it should be fine," she says.

Seeking approval

Major design or structural updates will need to be run past your local council. This includes changes to the facade like the colour and materials used in gates, roof and guttering.

"Always consult the planning department of your local council. Duty Planners in council are available over the phone during certain hours so it’s relatively easy to speak with someone," says Dominique.

Building and renovating

Your first port of call when deciding on any building or renovation work should be the Duty Planner of the council. They will provide guidance on your plans and advise if any do not fit in with heritage restrictions. 

Dominique suggests being prepared for additional costs when dealing with protected properties such as these.

"Architectural planning sometimes needs to be done by someone with specific experience in the area, and therefore costs can be a little higher," she says, "The materials you need to use can also cost more, so perhaps engage a quantitive surveyor who specialises in heritage listings who can give you an indication of what's involved."

Before you do any building work, it's a good idea to have a contingency fund, more especially with older properties.

"Anything can happen throughout the construction process, such as weather, time delays and unforeseen building issues," says Dominique.

Catch the new series of Escape to the Chateau, Wednesdays 9.30pm on Lifestyle. Or watch it your way on Foxtel GO.

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