The High Price of History: Buying A Heritage Home

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The High Price of History: Buying A Heritage Home

Heritage homes have perennial appeal and are highly sought-after in Melbourne and across Australia.

Different eras of history are represented in our cities and suburbs– from elegant Georgian, Victorian and Queen Anne buildings and Federation homes and the American influence in bungalows, through to stylish Art Deco and Art Nouveau and more modern post-war designs, our architecture is a visual history of the many cultural, economic and social influences which have shaped Melbourne and Victoria.

Homes from more recent decades such as the 1970s may also be considered to have heritage value, particularly as many of these buildings have been demolished to make way for more modern developments.

Are you thinking of buying a heritage home? There is great responsibility (and often great cost) involved in being the owner of one of these properties. We will look at the things you should consider before investing in a heritage home.

What is a heritage home?

While a home may have heritage features, this does not necessarily make it heritage -listed.

For a place or object to be included in the Victorian Heritage Register it must meet at least one of the Heritage Council of Victoria’s eight criteria for assessment and must be deemed to be of significant social, historical, cultural or aesthetic value. (Source: Heritage Victoria).

Buying a property on the Victorian Heritage Register will mean you are more restricted in any changes you can make to the property, and any proposed changes will need to be approved by Heritage Victoria.  You also need to advise Heritage Victoria that you are the new owner, and of you intention to sell the property.

If you intend to renovate, you must also receive the appropriate permit.

A larger group of properties are protected under a ‘heritage overlay’ which is administered by local councils and municipalities who issue planning permits for any approved changes.

In most cases, a permit will be required for exterior changes, such as re-painting, replacement of heritage features such as brickwork or iron lacework decorations.

Regardless of their status, properties covered by a heritage overlay usually need a planning permit from the council for any changes that are obvious from the street, such as demolition, relocation or construction of buildings, external alterations and exterior painting. As a rule, permits are not required for general maintenance and repairs, internal alterations, and repainting using the same colours.

Owners of all heritage homes have a general responsibility to maintain the property and not let it fall into disrepair.

Have I bought a home with heritage protection?

This register has a search function which will show the heritage status of your property.

Do I need special insurance for a heritage home?

There are no special requirements for insuring a heritage home, however you should take into consideration the age and condition of the property, and whether it needs electrical wiring and plumbing. Heritage homes may need to have repairs or reconstruction carried out with original materials, which can significantly affect an insurance quote.

What about renovations?

Depending on the status of your home, you may need to seek permission either from your local council or from Heritage Victoria before you make any alternations. Alterations to the structure or façade of the building will generally be harder to do.

Examples of period architecture in Melbourne:

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Victorian -Royal Exhibition Building, Melbourne
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Victorian -Lydiard Street, Ballarat
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Queen Anne - Homerton House – South Yarra
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Edwardian (also known as ‘Federation’)
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Californian Bungalow
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Art Deco -Mandalay Apartments, St Kilda
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What Can A Building Inspection Uncover In An Older Home?

Are you thinking of buying a heritage home – or just an older home?  These homes may have age-related issues and pitfalls that only a professional building inspection can uncover.

Hub inspector Rodney Taylor has a wealth of experience with inspecting older homes and has prepared a checklist of interior and exterior elements that may present issues in this type of property.

Exterior Elements

Sagging Roof Lines

‘Engineered roofing beams and trusses weren’t around pre-1980s. A lot of roofing materials didn’t come in continuous lengths and UV-stabilised finishes like today, so weathering, rusting and ageing in general is of great concern.’

Structural Integrity of Chimneys

‘We look for signs of dilapidation and weathering, and mortar deterioration in brickwork. Mortar has a shelf life, so to speak, and the damp-proof additives and plasticisers available today weren’t in use when many older homes were built.’

Cladding, Weatherboards and Brickwork

‘Aged external cladding, weatherboards and brickwork can be costly to repair. Weatherboards tend to attract termites and have soft spots and wood rot hidden below their painted surfaces. Aged brickwork can have softened and eroded/powdery mortar and also signs of rising damp and cracking. Damp-course membranes weren’t used back in the day like they are now.’

Sub-Floor and Foundations

‘Older homes are usually built with a sub-floor (not on a slab base like most newer homes) and many  are surrounded by overgrown gardens. These can cause problems relating to ventilation and drainage, causing rising damp and mould-related issues. Often, older homes have pooling water below them which can lead to the risk of foundation failure.’

Interior Elements

‘Undulating and squeaky floors, loose tiles, cracking in walls and ceilings, door jambs out of square and sticking doors, windows painted and jammed closed and lead-painted surfaces are all issues facing older homes. These homes also usually have insufficient insulation and gaps, creating drafts and thermal leakage.’

‘Electrical and plumbing upgrades are also usually required.’

 General Ageing

 ‘This includes the paint condition and deterioration. In a lot of cases, cast iron was used widely for external plumbing applications, so rust and corrosion can also be an issue.’

’All of these issues can be identified, photographed and commented on in a building inspection report carried out by a professional. With all this in hand a buyer can move forward with a purchase knowing any potential problems and costs they may encounter in the future.’

Are you building, buying, selling, renovating or investing? Looking for an experienced and reputable building inspection company?

The Home Inspection Hub are the residential inspection professionals.

We conduct all types of residential inspections throughout Melbourne, Geelong and Central Victoria:

  • Pre-Purchase House Inspections
  • Building and Pest Inspections with Crunch Pest Control
  • New Home Construction Inspections – all stages as well as Contract Review, Stand-Alone PCI and Maintenance Inspections
  • Owner Builder Defects (137B) Reports
  • Special Purpose Inspections
  • VCAT Reports and Expert Witness
  • Tax Depreciation Reports
  • Building Dispute Reports

We offer:

With over 20,000 inspections under our belt and an established reputation,  The Home Inspection Hub provides peace of mind for the biggest purchase you will ever make.

Call us today on 1300 071 283 or email and see how we can assist you in your home-buying journey.