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Why we love – and value – Victorian-style homes

51 Murray Street, PRAHRAN: This original double-fronted Victorian home has been well renovated and extended to the rear and well suits modern living. Bought under the hammer at auction on 19th June 2010 for $3.74M with 4 bidders.

51 Murray Street, : This original double-fronted home has been well renovated and extended to the rear and well suits modern living. Bought under the hammer at auction on 19th June 2010 for $3.74M with 4 bidders.

More than a hundred and twenty years since they were built, Victorian-style homes continue to rate highly among homebuyers in Melbourne. Why is that?

Let’s take the example of the double-fronted Victorian at 11 Primrose Street, Prahran, scheduled to go to auction on March 19. It has a lovely symmetrical facade and good building bones – a wide central hallway leading to a large open plan living area at the rear. The ceilings are high and, because of this, the house sits prominently up from the street.

And though it is beautifully renovated to the rear of the house, with a lovely light spacious living area opening onto the back garden, the renovation work cannot be seen from the front.

It is this ability to adapt Victorian-style houses to a modern lifestyle without compromising their original facade and character that makes them keep and grow their value so well, where many other home styles do not. It’s not just about complying with heritage requirements: a Victorian facade gives a house its all-important emotional appeal to buyers, and underpins its capital growth. The best and most sought-after streets in Melbourne are often the ones with original homes in uniform character.

One of the key features about Victorian homes is that they traditionally have big formal rooms at the front, with all the service areas, such as kitchen and laundry, at the back, well away from the living and entertaining areas. What that means today is that you can easily demolish the back of the home and put on a new living area. If the ceiling heights are retained throughout the renovation, the rear new spaces can often be very light and bright. And because only the front portion of the house is retained, updating the house for energy efficiency is relatively easy.

That flexibility translates into big dollars. Take 51 Murray Street, Prahran, a beautiful Victorian with a stunning ultra-modern two-storey rear renovation that would have cost several hundred thousand dollars. But this is the kind of house worth spending that kind of money on. James Home Ratings scored it at a whopping 926 out of 1000.

43 Motherwell Street, SOUTH YARRA

43 Motherwell Street,

Going to auction last year, the property, which had been quoted at $2.9 million plus, sold for $3.74 million after furious bidding between four bidders, which is twice the BiddermanTM we currently see in the $million plus auction market.

Unrenovated Victorians are just as highly sought after. A Victorian at 43 Motherwell Street, South Yarra that went to auction late last year had a beautiful ornate facade, but needed some serious work. On auction day, seven bidders battled it out to push the original quote price of $1.3 million to $1.86 million.

Compare that to houses of a more recent era, from the 1930s onwards. Even though this was a time where houses were beginning to incorporate mod cons such as electric kitchens and internal laundries, their layout doesn’t work that well for our modern lifestyle. We like to have living and entertaining areas opening onto the back garden – but, until the 1980s, houses tended to be designed with living areas and kitchens towards the front or middle of the house, which makes it difficult and expensive to make structural changes.

11 Olive Street, HAMPTON

11 Olive Street,

The property at 13 Olive Street, Hampton is a good example. Built in the 1950s, the house is an average size but the block of land is generous. Like many homes of this era, the house has a tricky floorplan. It lacks a wide central hallway, and the flow through the house is indirect and a little confusing. The bedrooms are relatively small and ceiling heights are low – around 2.7m, compared to 3.3m for the Primrose Street house.

Added to this is the fact that the facade is basic and has no real redeeming features, which means there is little or no emotional attachment from a buyer’s perspective. That lack of an attractive facade also means that houses in streets from this era are often part of an ever-changing streetscape – there is generally a lot of building activity happening or about to happen, bringing the noise and annoyance of a constant construction site and the potential risks down the track in terms of privacy.

The house might be cheaper to buy in the first place but, unlike the classic Victorian in a street of other similarly gracious facades, it is unlikely to keep and grow its value over the years.

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