Leave the suburbs behind
I UNDERSTAND that most of you right now might not live in a small country town or tiny regional hub, but plenty of us do at some point of our homeowning lives.
Some consider investing in the bush, or moving to Aunty’s rural retreat they loved as a child. There are also some of you that might be about to build in such a location and if that’s you, please read on and heed my warning.
Don’t worry, I’m not about to tell buyers not to consider these locations.
Rental returns can be better and if you time your purchase right in the market cycle, capital growth is certainly possible.
You just need to know what you’re in for.
In my experience it’s often the quiet spots, not the publicised hotspots, that offer surprises, but there is risk — not necessarily market based, but architectural.
It is all about knowing the vernacular.
If a character cottage or renovation project is not your thing and building a new home suits your needs, I believe this should come with a massive warning sticker attached.
In the past six months I have visited and researched many of these markets, talking to buyers, sellers and agents — the part of the home buying and selling equation that really counts.
The information I gleaned showed a common thread — if you want to sell with greater ease and have any chance of getting a better sale price, stop building houses with absolutely no design relevance to the chosen location.
I find this so frustrating I’ve been tempted to knock on doors and have a little chat with the owners of these absolute design disasters and request they bulldoze their new home and rebuild with taste, style and empathy to the area and location.
My colleagues suggested that this possibly wasn’t the best idea and that the production company injury insurance wouldn’t cover my, most likely, vast medical bills, so I’m venting in an alternative way.
The main cause of my frustration is knowing that creating a home that blends, complements and enhances the area and makes you more dollars in higher sales value, will actually cost no more than the ugly sister sitting there all out of place.
I want to see more weatherboard, more verandas, more beautiful classic rooflines. Windows placed to take in the views, no skinny houses with only garage door frontages on blocks of 1000sq m or more.
I want to see pretty gardens and picket fences, no stencilled or paved driveways — crushed gravel will do.
I told you it’s not an expensive option: blow that part of the budget on a picket fence.
I want to see homes designed entirely for their block. If the block is rectangular to the street, build a home with real frontage; it only has to be one or two rooms deep. On any block of, say, 1500sq m or more, consider the garage as a separate structure, linked maybe by a breezeway or not at all. Cramming house and garage together is what you have to do in the suburbs.
There, I’ve said it — the suburbs, the mass housing estates that are located all across the outer reaches of our big towns and cities. If you fail to acknowledge you are building a new home outside these areas and think you can just choose a home design off the peg and literally plonk it on your country town block, you’re making a financial mistake.
In many of the country markets I visit, the one house type that is tricky to sell is the one that looks like it should be 250km away in the city suburbs.
Where is the appeal? Where is the motivation for a buyer to get excited and, most importantly, why should they buy it?
So if you’re about to build in the country, embrace your block, acknowledge the location and get creative.
You’ll spend no more but have added value and buyer appeal from the day you move in. If you don’t, one day I may pluck up the courage to come knocking on your bad taste door.
If you don’t want to live in the suburbs make sure you design a house that doesn’t look like you do.