Unique heritage homes can command a premium.

But they can also require upkeep and maintenance and be a true labour of love for property owners.
Here are 10 things to consider if you own, or want to own, a heritage property on Sydney’s Upper North Shore.

1. Find out if a property is heritage listed

You can find out whether a property is heritage protected simply by entering the address into the State Government website. Heritage Items and Heritage Conservation Areas are also listed on Schedule 5 of the Ku-ring-gai Local Environment Plan 2012 and Ku-ring-gai Local Environment Plan 2015. Your real estate agent should be able to provide some information, but it’s important to have your lawyer or conveyancer investigate if you’re interested in buying a property that may have heritage appeal.

2. Know what it really means if a property is heritage listed

If something is heritage protected, it means that it has environmental or cultural significance and needs to be preserved for future generations. A building can have local, State, national or even world significance. Heritage listing also extends to gardens, trees, streetscapes, and more. Bear in mind that a property doesn’t have to be hundreds of years old to be heritage listed – some more modern, contemporary homes, like Rose Seidler House, Jack House and Marcus Seidler House, all in Wahroonga, are heritage listed for various reasons.

3. Understand why heritage listings matter

Many owners of heritage homes see themselves as custodians of a treasured heritage item, and play a valuable role in preserving our architectural history for others to enjoy. But you have to be prepared to take on that responsibility and role if you purchase a heritage listed property. The cost and upkeep will be up to you.

According to Ku-ring-gai Council:

“Our heritage gives us a sense of living history and provides a physical link to the work and way of life of earlier generations. It enriches our lives and helps us to understand who we are today. In a planning context, heritage refers to things in our built and natural environment that we want to conserve for future generations to enjoy.”

4. You can renovate a heritage property

Many people worry that they won’t be able to renovate or make changes to a heritage listed property. This simply isn’t true. While you need to preserve what is ‘significant’ about the property, sympathetic renovations usually can be undertaken, provided you seek the right guidance and approvals. If you’re considering a renovation or even a fresh coat of paint, you’ll need to run it past council and work with a heritage builder, architect or consultant. The first step should be to speak with a Heritage Consultant, at the council. Depending on what you want to change, you may need to apply for a Development Application (DA). And heritage renovations may cost more, due to the skill, labour and materials involved. That said, some people adore the charm, character, quirks and unique histories of heritage properties and are happy to live in them unchanged, preserving them for generations to come.

5. You may not be able to change everything

The council provides fact sheets on heritage design which are a great starting point if you’re considering buying a heritage property that needs work. If you own a heritage property, depending on its era and why it is heritage listed, you may have to compromise when it comes to changing things like paint colours, window types, verandahs, garages and carports, skylights, fences, garden styles, chimneys, floor plan, and more. Even modernising things like the interior of bathrooms and kitchens needs to be given careful consideration, and may require permission, in order to preserve the property’s integrity.

6. What is a Heritage Conservation Area?

A Heritage Conservation Area (HCAs) is slightly different to a heritage listing. HCA’s are Ku-Ring-Gai council’s attempt to preserve an entire area that’s been recognised for its unique historical and aesthetic character. You can download a map of Ku-Ring-Gai’s HCAs and find a list of current and proposed HCAs on the Ku-ring-gai website here. Features such as building facades, fences, trees and gardens may be listed, to make sure the area’s appeal and the overall streetscape is protected from inappropriate development.

7. Fines apply

Bear in mind that Government and Councils take heritage listings seriously. This means that fines apply if you demolish, or damage, heritage items.

8. There’s help at hand for heritage homeowners

There’s no doubt that heritage homes can cost a little more in upkeep and maintenance. Ku-ring-gai Council offers annual Heritage Home Grants of $1,000 to $5,000 to owners of heritage homes, or those in heritage conservation areas, who are undertaking approved conservation and maintenance works to the original and significant fabric of the property. You may find that there are other grants available to you from the State Government, or other heritage organisations.

9. Heritage homes can sell for a premium

Heritage homes often attract buyers who are looking for unique details and craftsmanship. Some buyers may pay over the odds for a particular style of home, for instance, Federation and Arts and Crafts homes or a modernist classic.

A heritage listed property can set itself apart from the pack, and a heritage listing can actually be an excellent selling point when it comes time to market your home for sale. Heritage listed homes may sometimes hold a premium over other homes simply because they’re unique.

10. The Upper North Shore is home to many stunning heritage homes

The Upper North Shore is home to a wide variety of heritage listed properties, and many unique heritage conservation areas. What is wonderful about them, is that they aren’t museums – real families get to live modern lives within these fabulous properties.

For example, in February 2021, we sold 33a Bangalla St Warrawee. Framed by a semi-circular sandstone driveway and sculpted park-like grounds, this majestic circa 1935 double brick residence is recognised as one of the area’s premier estates. The property is heritage listed, thanks to a range of significant original features including stunning leadlight windows, pressed ceilings, original hardwood floors and three bell presses, but has been sympathetically updated for a modern lifestyle. Complete with a billiard room, pool and tennis court, it’s a sensational 5 bedroom family home.

For an expert valuation of your property, call our team today.

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