After 20 years at the Top you learn a few things buying and selling.
Below is designed to help you. A video summary, then more detail.
All are clients, all gave permission to be featured. Enjoy.

1. Window

Why Perth Street as our start?


Well everybody could have a home like this – every single person in Australia.


The living room, bathroom and bedroom stick in my mind even now – 15 years after purchase.


It really changed how I viewed single-fronters and what a designer can contribute under very tight space constraints.


The concept and execution to this day remains in my mind – a classic.




Garden and light aspect created from garden and light wells neatly developed into a very tightly bunched row of single fronted period homes.


Boring new homes, ugly period homes can all be completely transformed in terms of space, feeling, desirability by windows and garden aspects.


The beautiful and incredibly smart thing done by the creator of this renovation was each window made a different frame and garden picture.


One of the garden windows was almost tropical – bathroom. The living area had a tight vine creeper on the neighbours wall to give a sense of space and design and European wine flavour.


So different, yet it completely worked, even in a period home – it gave each room a different aspect, a different perspective and a different feeling.


I really enjoyed buying this home for you Mark and Leonie. It still sits in my mind as one our Top 10s and it was only just on a million dollars. Thank you


Learning: Framing your feeling – garden aspect windows that bring in a mottled light – even in the tightest of spaces really lift the desirability (and price) of a home.


Another learning was the value of experts – there is no way this was possible by an amateur home renovator.


Buying Agent: James Buy Sell

Architect: Pleysier Perkins

Selling Agent: Kay and Burton

2. Facade

I remember the days I first laid eyes on this home – I loved it and so did our clients, Anna, Adam and their family.


I have a picture of Ash’s façade hanging in my office.


One of only three of this façade type in Australia – it really shows what you first see, can cloud all other issues, can lock rose-coloured glasses onto you and can make you so emotional, that you see nothing else connected with the home in isolation.


When I see Ash close up, even 15 years later, it makes me feel something special – and I get a shiver – just like when I listen to Paul Potts on his Nessa Dorma talent quest video.


This is as powerful for me, as my family home or when I go to France and walk up the driveway of a Buddhist monastery I so love.


Only a handful of facades have had as great effect on me as Ash (Tower, Chrystobel, some classic 1960s)) and like my first love – this one will forever remain incredibly strong within my soul.


Whoever said beauty is only skin deep was so right.


Only she’s not all front – with a tennis court, large land and we’ve acquired a few more neighbours since, to add a pavilion and other quarters – the rear reno, the period features and even its new pool and landscaping and kitchen updates – all beautiful and in keeping with the stature and rarity of this home – means she is not just a skin deep beauty.


However, and this includes Anna’s chocolates and Adams jokes – nothing matches the beauty and evocative power of Ash’s façade – it is like a cathedral, a real place of spirit – and even though Adam and Anna are the bosses – we were never going to miss this.


Footnote: It’s not often I can remember 15 years later what somebody said to me – that’s what age does to you. However, I do remember Adam saying and I quote “Mal, I hired a rat to catch a rat.” To this day I am still trying to work out if that was a compliment or not.


Buying Agent: James Buy Sell

Architect: A. H Fischer 1890

Selling Agent: Iain Carmichael of Jellis Craig


We have bought some good blocks, but none better than this blank canvass on which to build “your forever” home.


How about these diamonds in your jewel box?


  1. Court location on Scotch Hill
  2. North rear
  3. Home sitting forward on the block
  4. Good land size
  6. Capitalisation of new build or major reno ok due to neighbours


Quoted at $2000 per sqm and we bought it at $3,000 per sqm in a ferocious auction around $1,000,000 above the quote AND WE SAY OUR CLIENTS BOUGHT IT CHEAP.


Why? Because it was an incredible blank canvass.


Let’s focus on one feature – On Block position – Home sitting forward on the block.


Unless you’re on a busy road, sitting forward on a block is almost always, a great thing.




It makes less worth more.


You get more backyard for FREE.


Let’s say your land is worth $5,000 per sqm and you want a biggish backyard – in Narveno’s case our clients wanted a tennis court – they have one on 950 sqm.


Minimum normally (when a house sits back) is 1200sqm and the usual is 1400 sqm – that is between $1,000,000 and $2,000,000 more money at purchase time for the same tennis court and home.


However, for it to work on smaller blocks, the home must be brilliantly placed on your block or else


  1. You will be all squashed up and nothing is less desirable than a big home squashed into a small space. Too much land the front, too little at the back it what I call the Shit Sandwich (with apologies for my poor language).
  1. If you don’t have an existing home forward on the block, then unless your immediate neighbours are forward on the block, it is almost impossible to get council town planning or building approval – due to street setback overlays.
  1. And as we said the road has to be quiet or noise into the homes, into bedrooms is unsatisfactory (without the significant expense of double glazing) and even then car vibration can still be an issue.


Don’t believe me – have a look at grand old homes with bits of the original surrounding land sold off. The old dame sits forlornly in a corner, looking for somebody to dress her up and take her out – but she is undatable (male version of this sentence same result).


A good example is one that has just been sold in the Gascoigne Estate, Malvern East after a number of attempts to sell over the years. It has been near on impossible to sell, because the majestic building was stuck away in the north east corner, tight onto fences and despite a major refurbishment was rejected by many grand period home buyers, due to no useable rear and side land that flowed – despite her pedigree, address and land size.


The home felt and was unbalanced.


Part 2 of this story is Geoff Challis from Venn Architects. Video we included some time ago.


And the photos in this image carousel are his work.

There are some great architects around and he is one of them.


Back Story – The Clients:


We met Zara walking through another home and we said hello, we talked and we were engaged. With Andrew we talked them out of that home and another in Florence St Kew and then said Narveno was it – it was the one.


Not that they needed any real convincing.


They trusted us when we said you needed 50% more than the quote and that you could build your dream forever home on Narveno with the right architect.


Their original brief:

  1. Brilliant location
  2. Tennis court and under $4m budget (2013)
  3. Prefer period home and prefer not to renovate.


Well as Meatloaf says – 2 out of 3 aint bad.


We have had a number of referrals from Zara since their job and been back several times during and after completion.


In the end all we did was find a brilliant blank canvass, Zara and Andrew got the painter, the paints and painted it, to be the Monet that it truly is today.


Buying Agent: James Buy Sell

Architect: Geoff Challis Venn Architects

Selling Agent: Warwick Anderson RT Edgar

4. Free

Our 20 in 20 years is all about Emotion. *Emotion* will be highlighted.



Covid is making many rethink the $ – its emotional power to change your home criteria and lower your mortgage BUT at the same time, increase/improve your lifestyle.



Learning: Dollars can be very emotionally powerful and positive with a FREE HOME.



Although Pine St seems about $ – this really is about an incredibly good emotional buy.



We all like a bargain, don’t we?



If you could get $100,000 off your $4million home, you’d be happy, wouldn’t you?



Well what about if you could get a $4million home for ½ price, for $2million – how would that be for your mortgage payments, for your nest egg, for your emotional happiness. *Emotion*



In a way, that is exactly what Ben and Simone did.



They paid $2million and a bit for a $3million lifestyle now and a $4million home in terms of financial growth. *Emotion*




A home price is made up of Land (grows in value) + Building (most shrink in value) and Emotion (variable depending on micro and macro markets).



FREE HOME = When you pay a price that is equivalent to a same sized VACANT block of land next door, only you get a home you can live in or rent out happily. You have bought a FREE HOME, as 100% of your investment is in your land.



EXPENSIVE HOME = You pay a price that is made up of 50% land + 50% building.



During the next 10 years

You may be paying ½ the mortgage on your FREE HOME for a similar lifestyle. *Emotion*



During the next 20 years

Your FREE HOME will be worth the same as the EXPENSIVE HOME. *Emotion*



During the next 30 years

You will be able to SELL your FREE HOME and BUY the EXPENSIVE HOME AND pay your mortgage down to zero and PUT leftover $ into children’s homes or your Super and apart from a few years of nicer kitchen, you will have a far better lifestyle in your FREE HOME on more travel, less work, free school fees etc. *Emotion*





Can we say that Ben and Simone’s choices, the decisions made in 2015 have probably set them up for life financially, emotionally and physically – even if they do nothing else – we suppose especially, if they do nothing else.



The home they bought in Pine St Brighton East WAS NOT what they were originally looking for. HOWEVER, they were mentally and emotionally able to shift gears, when a more complete package was presented to them. *Emotion*





So why is the home so good? Why is it a free home?


From our 2015 James Home Rating


If you are a low to mid $2m’s homebuyer – buy this.


Forget going down the Bay because you can’t afford Brighton – you can – THIS IS IT. Forget going to Bentleigh East and buying a new home with the Whiz bang Butler’s pantry and shiny surfaces – that’s short term.


Think laterally and buy this home.


If you do, then you will be printing money until you sell, and your family will be set for life (all things being equal).


Why? Its great land (flat, north and wide) in a good (probably very good position) WITH A FREE HOME on it, that can be rented, cosmetically made over or bulldozed now or in the future.


 It’s a great spot re schools, Brighton shops, rail etc. East Brighton address yes – closer to rail and Church St, than a lot of Brighton.


 It’s got all the flexible options a thinking family would want – providing you can live without the glitz – but its still a great and very livable home as is.


 This is classic organic portfolio building fuel without the sugar hit.





  • In 2015 land was selling for $2200 to $3000 per sqm in Brighton East.
  • Ben and Simone paid $2,320,000 divided by 993 sqm at public auction = $2336 per sqm.
  • So land value = $2,320,000 and we paid $2,320,000 – meaning land content as a % of price paid = 100%. Meaning home was free.





  • Ben and Simone: Bought their home.
  • Mr and Mrs Newbuild in the same street bought a new home at same price but with a glitzy home on it. (1/2 the land size)
  • Land quadrupled – say over the next few market cycles.
  • So hypothetically after 20 years,
  • Ben and Simone: Land $2,320,000 x 400% plus building $0 = $9,280,000
  • Mr and Mrs Newbuild: Land $1,160,000 x 400% plus building $1,160,000 x 0%(it’s really dated) = $4,640,000
  • Same mortgage after a few cycles = $2,320,000
  • Ben and Simone wanted to downsize after a few cycles and so they sold their home, paid off their mortgage, bought Mr and Mrs Newbuild (spent $200,000 on Pine and $100,000 tarting up new home) and put the rest $2,020,000 into Super. ($2,020,000=$9,280,000-$2,520,000-$4,640,000-$100,000).
  • As Mr and Mrs Newbuild only had $2,320,000 left in 20 years they will rent, as they don’t want a townhouse in Berwick. *Emotion*
  • Ben and Simone have no mortgage, a good home and a nest egg and they still live in Brighton? in 20 years. *Emotion*


The Emotional Power is huge to release your life Psychologically, Physically and Financially, with a FREE HOME and Ben and Simone are great examples of this.



We loved buying this free home for Ben and Simone, it was emotional.



Buying Agent: James Buy Sell

Selling Agent: Julian Augustini of Hodges

5. Provenance

Those that understand the value of provenance; want to know the history of a Namatjira or a Renoir; the restorers’ qualifications on an original Eames or Benz and the likely expected future condition of a Grange or a Rothschild – before they purchase.


What is provenance?

Provenance is a word of French origin (of course) and if you goggle it, you’ll read – it’s a record of ownership of a work of art, used as a guide to authenticity or quality.


Why is provenance important in a home?

To some it’s not; however, for many provenance

  • is a form of comfort in getting what you think you are paying for,
  • a predictor of future demand and in turn future price
  • a confirmation that others who seem influential/classy agree with you


and that’s an emotion combination of trust, that we have seen premiums paid on. (example: Organic v Supermarket brand)


In a busy world, has provenance gone out of fashion?

No, the opposite, brand is provenance, pest and internet valuation reports are provenance, A Sec 32 is provenance.


A better question. Has real provenance (full and deep research) been replaced by superficial provenance (marketing)? Mmmmm, yep! What we are talking about here, in relation to 45 Chrystobel, goes a lot deeper than the agents logo, the flashy brochure, the made up SOI.


In the World’s, Australia’s and Melbourne’s top 1% of anything, provenance holds great emotional value and if managed well great price value. A reasonable level of time, understanding and detective work is required for what we call real provenance.


Welcome to 45 Chrystobel, a home James Buy Sell bought for Murray and Anne in 2008. Besides the obvious, as seen in the video and Chrystobel getting a rating of 900/1000 – it was the additional researched provenance that gave Murray and Anne confirmation of their thoughts, that ultimately initiated strategies and then actions, that bested their rivals (emotional competition) and ultimately bought the home.



It was real provenance that has led to a very happy 12 years of living so far, with almost no changes AND it will be Chrystobel’s provenance that resells this home in the future.  



This article is about the importance of Provenance and the 3P’s of Chrystobel


When you are looking at any home – there is price, property and position – (3Ps). Position is pre-eminent in provenance.





  • The world has how many truly great cities? Melbourne is one!
  • Melbourne has a handful of influential suburbs: Albert/Middle Park, Carlton/Fitzroy, Essendon, Brighton, Toorak and Hawthorn. They are the suburbs that a century of history shows are the centres of influence. For a while Canterbury/Balwyn has added itself to this list.
  • Within suburbs – there are precincts of influence. Golden Mile, Tara, Sackville and in Hawthorn there are 3 key precincts. St James Park, Scotch Hill and Grace Park.
  • Within the precincts there are important streets. Kooyongkoot, Shakespeare, Coppin and within Grace Park there are Hawthorn Grove, Mary Street and Chrystobel Crescent.
  • Within streets there are good and bad numbers, sides and ends – noise, light, sit proud.


Positional ProvenanceCity / Suburb / Precinct / Road / Numbers

Chrystobel ProvenanceMelbourne/ Hawthorn / Grace Park / Chrystobel / 45


Chrystobel Crescent Hawthorn has perfect positional provenance.



PROPERTY Provenance

Builder, Architect, Renovations.


45 Chrystobel has impeccable building influences and class provenance.


Influence: noun

the capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behaviour of someone or something, or the effect itself.


Class: noun

a set or category of things having some property or attribute in common and differentiated from others by kind, type, or quality.


Class: verb

assign or regard as belonging to a particular category


Class: adjective

showing stylish excellence.


How do we know which architects and builders are influential, are class? What are they worth in addition to the land, bricks and mortar?


Chrystobel was built in 1888 – plenty of other homes were built in 1888 in Gold Rush Times – few remain – why is Chrystobel so special?


) Architectural Provenance:

J.A.B. Koch (1845-1928) in part is why – he was the original architect. His list of credits is lengthy – look up Wikipedia.


You have heard of the National Trust’s Labassa in Caulfield?


John Koch was the architect of Labassa and also the architect on 45 Chrystobel.


As an aside we also bought his Richmond residence in Church Street for clients Lucy and Alastair in 2013 – don’t get us started on facades again.


) Builder Provenance:

In new builds – its critical to understand the builder’s reputation and see other works 10 years and older – that is builder provenance. In older builds and renovations, the skills of the builder pass or fail on the time test, more so than reputations.


) Renovation Provenance:

So many renovations are measured by $ spent, big expansive rooms and finishes, magazine awards. But many renovations and newbuilds are merely one man’s concrete ego waiting for the next woman’s bulldozer.


Only a few architects understand the organism of a classic older building. Most want to put their own stamp on somebody else’s masterpiece and in doing so damage the history, damage the provenance, damage the emotion. Many older homes are just a façade of history with a few plastic emotionless boxes tacked in/on behind – like the staff canteen behind a western movie set.


Most but not all – nobody is saying all old is good, either.


Chrystobel Crescent Hawthorn had significant renovations carried out under the leadership of heritage architect Michael Munckton.


We have bought other Munckton renovated homes – we feel it’s important that on older homes an experienced architect deals sympathetically – if you want to keep its historical provenance – if you don’t, that’s of course ok too (it’s your home).


Chrystobel and another Munckton renovated home, Clendon Rd Toorak, were bought by separate clients, in part due to Munckton’s respectful renovations. Clendon was an original Marcus Martin.


Neither has boxes tacked on the back and in fact both homes are a long way away from big, expansive, gold leafed caverns. However, they still work in 2020 as classic period large scale family homes – they are not pretend classics – they are real ones.


Clendon, Chrystobel and another home we bought for clients Kooyongkoot Road Scotch Hill (mentioned below) have excellent Building and 3Ps provenance.



PRICE Provenance

Influence, class and emotion are all intertwined in a home’s provenance and all affect price – not just now, but in the future.


Having said that, how do we avoid the “any price is ok syndrome?”


Price provenance is how at say $10million and above – traditional ways of specific comparison valuation are rarely possible. Price provenance is about $ opinions that actually mean something.


Clendon Road – had two bidders – 150+ individual bids.


Kooyongkoot Road (Crossakeil) – “just us and them” – 3 months to negotiate a price. Where’s the price provenance? That’s secret sauce – but price provenance was proven – our clients and the sellers are all experienced negotiators and things would not have proceeded if price provenance wasn’t established on both sides. Coincidentally the architect Harry Gibbs designed Crossakeil as part of the 1884 Grace Park home design competition, where Chrystobel also came out of.


Chrystobel: when our clients bought it in the GFC, it had 5 bidders around the table, in the front dining room, competing to $8million. The price had provenance.


Great Provenance = Branding = Emotion = Price


All homes, at all price levels have provenance – a question for buyers and sellers is, do you know and understand the value of that provenance?


Buying Agent: James Buy Sell on all homes.

Selling Agent: Ross Savas, Gerald Delany, Mike Gibson, (The Great Provenance Triumvirate) and Sam Wilkinson, all from Kay and Burton

Architects: John Koch, Michael Martin, Harry Gibbs, Michael Munckton

Photo: National Trust Labassa
Kooyoogkoot - CRossakeil

6. Change

This could be you.


A normal family, living in Malvern nearly a decade ago, made a directional change, one based on pure and free emotion AND in 2020, it seems to have worked.


They thought and were prepared to act, away from one’s usual curvatures of emotion, away from the guiding norm, outside society’s traditional dictates and their life went on – their family is safe, no harm has come, no damage done.


With our pandemic asking some pretty emotional questions of us all, here is the first of clients many; who have made a simple but seemingly less than easy, directional change for their own, their children’s, their family’s wellbeing.


This is the story of Pauline, Jimmy, Erin and Aisling – a story of change – a story of more through less – jubilant, total emotion, a true story for now.

Those Bloody Pooing Wombats and the occasional visit to their friends on extreme bushfire days, were seemingly the only major negatives of buying into a lifestyle change, when we were talking to Pauline and Jimmy (and Erin and Aisling) via zoom this week (2020). But first:


Backstory from Gina’s (James Buy Sell) notes 2012

It was a Monday morning, May 12, 2012.


Pauline is my name and I want to buy a home – a warm voice stated rather quickly, in a light but engaging Irish brogue.  Warm was a feeling, I was going to experience a lot in the next 5 days, despite being on the edge of a colder Melbourne Winter.


My notes show I spoke to both Jimmy and Pauline on the phone that day. I really liked them as people, they felt genuine.


  • Pauline and Jimmy hadn’t bought a home before (yep correct!!)
  • They were not even really looking.
  • Last weekend Pauline and Jimmy had been through a home, they’d seen on the internet, and they wanted us to buy this coming weekend at auction. That home was 118 Bradleys Lane Warrandyte



Simone made many phone calls that week.


Never bought a home before,

No finances and auction this weekend.

Mmmm – challenging!


  • Professional couple – she (Pauline) is in health and he (Jimmy) in IT with family, Erin 2 and another about to happen), renting in Malvern
  • Looking for a meaningful way to bring up their children
  • Budget to mid $1M’s


Position: State Park on 3 sides – river, forest and all free, gratis, no charge for mowing.

Property: The façade and feeling of this home was palpable as you entered the driveway.

Price: Was incredible – people pay 3 or 4 times, maybe 10 times what was paid, looking for the sanctuary, adventure and family life Bradley offers.


Quoted from Mal’s client rating in 2012 – 669/1000:

Sometimes in our business you view homes that actually move you – sometimes is only a few times a year. This home at 118 Bradleys is one such home.


Yes there are the growth, school and possible isolation issues of purchasing in Warrandyte North; but when you see a home of this calibre, all that melts away, as your emotions are elevated by the look and feel, the position to the national park and Yarra river and the exquisite care that has gone into the building of this home.


Some may come here and go quirky and others may think the home entrance is a little plain, but those that switch off from iPod life to a more contemplative one, can only become engrossed by the feeling of sanctuary, of peace and of family.


This is a truly great home for children to grow up in.


Fast Forward Saturday and in a different sign of the times – Simbo was able to co-ordinate the broker we recommended (Grant Rheuben) who said should be ok (that same week WOW!), as well council was ok, legals were checked and ok, pest and building ok. We had two pre auction meetings and bought Bradleys, for Pauline and Jimmy and Erin and soon to be Aisling, on the day, under the hammer, at a powerful auction – 3 main bidders.


The feeling was one of elation – this felt so right for them.


From our August 20, 2020 Zoom

Pauline and Jimmy: Gina and Mal good to see you again, how is life treating to you? And yes, we’d love to talk about Tree Change / Sea Change / Blow you mind change that 118 has been for us.


The pandemic has been interesting, but we feel pretty good in our home, right now.


Firstly, we thought our children were growing up and going to school on a block in Canterbury – things have changed, we will be staying here. We love it here.


Pauline: When I first drove down the street and we turned into the driveway – it all got to me, so strongly. The absolute warmth of the whole place and of that façade – I felt such a rush down my spine – this was it for me.


Walking into the place – I felt such joy. Yes, it was quirky but stylish. I still feel that joy


Jimmy: I loved the house then and I still do today, Mal and Gina. I could tell it was well built – it was for the owner; it was their pride and joy and today almost a decade on – I still feel the same way. Walking the trails, down by the river, love the block ………….


Pauline: This home works so well, it has been brilliantly designed. See that balcony, so many dinner parties – but what I love the most is my morning coffee, in amongst the treetops – the kookaburras, the cockatoos and the rosellas.


Jimmy: Agreed – the home is so simple – but it works so well.


Mal and Gina: Surely must be some downsides.


Pauline and Jimmy: More mowing and maintenance (you could pay a gardener), a few days a year we need to think twice on bushfire ratings – even with 120 sprinklers built into our home by the builder (Chris and Jaki – Character Building) and until recently internet access, but NBN has fixed that. But that said, the plusses of family life and friends and the community far outweigh those issues (except when we’re weeding Mal and Gina)


Mal and Gina: What about distance from everything?


Pauline and Jimmy: Distance is not a problem unless you commute to the city and then it couldn’t work, if you had to do that 5 days a week – so get your work to fit your life and your family’s life (may be 2 days a week).

It might be further, but it takes no longer, to get anywhere locally as there is no traffic (yay)


Friends – it’s better for friends and family – when they come – they are here with us – they are present and they stay – its more meaningful and what we do is more together. Distance is not an issue.


Mal and Gina: So, your advice to professionals (Pauline is a psychologist and Jimmy an IT architect) or for that matter any tree change homebuyer:


Pauline and Jimmy:

  1. Do It
  2. Get a professional to help you buy – your work Mal and Gina was spot on.
  3. Get into your community.


Get into your community! Mal and Gina that has been the best part and why we won’t move now – it’s our community and if we could give any advice, it would be get into it, as early as you can – volunteer, join, turn up – meet people and share. This is such a welcoming and truly wonderful community and 118 Bradleys lane is as much a part of a great building, great block, as it is a great community – in fact community is the best part.


Hi All,

We thoroughly enjoyed interviewing Pauline & Jimmy yesterday. Pauline is a beautiful person and the way she described her love at first sight – she felt for her house – was poetic! 

“I remember turning the corner into the driveway and my heart sank with warmth and joy. There was a home quirky & fun but stylish & modern. It was love at first sight which was amplified once I got inside.”

Later she said “her love grows rather than gets depleted” – once again we think she was referring to the home, but maybe it was Jimmy!



After discussion: Mal and Gina I so remember the auction day and the nerves I had – I was so pregnant – but Mal, your suit. I still remember it, with the purple lines running through your tweed and your hat – it was well……

Mal: Still have it Pauline, still wear it at auction and thank heavens Savile Row England, knows how to hide extra kilos.


Buying Agent: James Buy Sell


Builder (Provenance): – Chris and Jaki Cornell


Selling Agent: Fletchers: Chris Chapman, Mandy Berenyi and Lachie Fraser-Smith (Auctioneer – Bidderman was 3). Vendor Advocate: Ian and Ben Reid.

7. $eachange

Almost everybody feels at home by the water. Even a fake fountain in an apartment gives a level of serenity.


With many of us asking questions do I, does my family, need a full-on change – here are some client $eachange learnings from the last 20 years.


Yes, we have bought everywhere on the Mornington Peninsula. Yes, median growth rates have been as good as Melbourne in the last decade, however for some


  • City Convenience and Action
  • Doctor / Hospitals
  • Schools
  • Friends
  • Family
  • Work


are all one to two hours away, on the Mornington Peninsula.


Same deal with Lorne, Torquay, Fairwater – we buy beach houses there regularly for clients and love doing it.


However same issues as above for some clients with families / work AND there is the Geelong freeway and Westgate …..Mmmmm


Ok its quieter? Not really, check out Brighton, Hampton, Black Rock in summer – no difference. OK there are vineyards and lovely drives – yep true, but there is theatre and restaurants in Melbourne? What turns you on?


Not every family can afford a beach house these days – or can you?


Here is a suggestion – a slight $eachange variance – best of all worlds – these are client stories – there are scores of clients who have moved from Toorak traffic to Bayside beaches.


Simple concept, why not make your beach house your investment, your retirement, your family home, your office – an all in one $eachange?


Hampton is 30 minutes away from CBD and costs the same as Sorrento and as Lorne – 2 hours away.


Yes, we buy Top End – but in this learning we focussed on what almost anybody can do, right now in 2020/21, if they want to.


2006 – Richard and Anne – Eastern Suburbs to Hampton – $1,000,000+


G’day Mal, Richard here, you’ve acted for Anne and me, a few times on commercials and investments. Now we want you to buy a beach house in Lorne.


Yes, Richard I remember you well and happy to buy for you in Lorne. Can I ask you a couple of questions first?


Shoot Mal!


How often do you go to Lorne?


Not much – last time was a year ago.


How old are your kids?


All teenagers and yeah plenty of weekend sport and socials up here.


When are you planning to retire?


10 years or so, why do you ask?


Do you need this “investment” to work for you?


Sure do Mal.


Then rent in Lorne on the occasional time you go there, and I’ll look around to buy you a little beauty in Hampton.


Hampton. That’s a long way from Lorne Mal.


We bought a few months later and rented it out. 10 years later our clients, Richard and Anne moved in.


Last week I dropped Richard and Anne a note saying I was doing this series.




1998 – Doug and Kate – Ringwood to Black Rock – $300,000+

1998: Are you sure Mal? We’ve lived all our married life in Ringwood!


2020: On a walk together. Mal I’m not sure we are ever going to leave Mal!


2016 – Julie and Ian – Malvern East to Hampton – $1,500,000+


Julie and Ian lived in the Malvern East for the last 3 decades. We bought and sold for Ian and Julie at the same time and money in their pockets.


August 2020 on a walk with Julie: It’s a whole new forever life and even Ian is getting used to it. Thank you.


Your 2020/21 Q&A’s maybe just need to tweak, rather than a full rad change!


The solutions above were low cost, low risk and high reward.


Our clients could always “return” if they ever choose to, as they are still in the Inner Melbourne market.


Sea change with smarts?


Couples can be as one before they start looking for a home – however some soon discover they want very different things. 


Alice and Adam are about how you buy your dream home, whilst having different ideas and still end up as a whole couple emotionally.


This is story of great love …. of working around the world in Paris, New York and …… of meeting and starting a family and then, whoops…. the family is growing, has needs; needs that are pulling them back to the wider family circle, back in Melbourne.


This is a story, that for fame and privacy reasons we have not put a specific address


The year was 2015 when we all first met, at a rather nice home in the Tara Estate – not theirs, merely an interludery (is that a word) abode, until more permanent digs could be acquired, hopefully with us helping them.


Alice was a lady of beauty and personality and one famous in her own field – whereas old buggalugs, Adam, the husband, an actuary, was punching above his weight. Actually, that’s unfair Alice was a lady of great beauty – but I digress, and we are joking – Gina and I took an immediate shine to both of them as individuals and as a couple. Whilst Alice has a bubbling over personality, we also felt a closeness to Adam – his love for his family and his humour (hence this paragraph which he laughed at when reading).


Very different people, in very different roles, with very different personalities – yet they were complementary and united.


It’s worthy of repeating – they had a common love for each other, their relationship and their family. As well, they respected themselves and their abilities in their own spaces and both were crystal clear on what each wanted and the other half’s happiness.


So, you would think great – they know what they want – easy peasy – like surely if ever there was a money for jam job, then this was it.


Well no, not really. It was a great job, a meaningful one – but it was not easy peasy.


Buying a property is about PPP’s – Price, Property and Position.


Normally Position is the No 1 determining factor agreed upon and the building (Property) is debated with the hubby rolling over a little on $, to the home she nominates, and he agrees to. Politically incorrect to say – but generally true. That’s a normal – but Alice and Adam were far from normal.


Alice was a lady who knew what Property she wanted – probably period, a home of feeling and one in which the emotions she experienced, reflected her perceptions of what was best for her family. She knew class – she knew design – she understood form and proportions.


Adam on the other hand was far more nuts and bolts – he knew what Price he wanted, had his spreadsheet and he held firm, with unshiftable views on three things – the absolute budget, the absolute budget AND what Alice wanted.


Two PPP’s they agreed on (Price and Property); with flexible Position, except access to good schools and this was straight from our file notes: Personal: Due to your budget, we think you need a two-step process and therefore the home you buy now has to have FFF options. Five-year future flexibility.


Over six months these disparate views led us far and wide, to Hawthorn East, Albert Park, Elwood and Richmond – all suburbs that were the scenes of great battles, but alas no high fives, no congratulatory drinks or for the smokers, no cigars.


At times there were undercurrents, innuendos, subtle digs and meetings, phone calls and emails – all pointing the finger at you know who – the pen pusher, the suit, the dollar controller. Every time we’d come up short – we looked at each other in feigned conciliation, but secretly thinking – these guys are professionals at what are they doing – both sides would think that, surely.


The one guiding light that shone through about Alice and Adam, their absolute dogged determination by both for both, to get what they both wanted.


We totally respect Adam’s view – yes it was money and his training – but it wasn’t about money per se – it was about lifestyle. He didn’t want his family’s lifestyle impinged by excessive debt. His reasoning wasn’t petty, wasn’t narrow – it was big picture, it was sound and even if you thought it was none of these – it was still firm.


Firm, but not the dominant opinion – for Alice was also uncompromising – but on sentiment, on feel, on the built form environment.


And so onwards, never looking back after each miss, until there it was – The One – The One Alice and Adam shouldn’t have been able to afford.


Back Story: This home was found (ok stumbled on) whilst we were going back over older homes that hadn’t sold the year before. This one was off market and in Canterbury – a suburb we hadn’t tried previously – however it had good access to all things, including transport, schools and Adam and Alice’s wider family.


The floorplan was better than it looked – not perfect, but flexible and room to expand with a reno, when the future could afford it (see FFF above). The land was big, but the road did carry some traffic – however it was set back. In many ways it was an average $2million and change, period home, in need of some work, but with good bones and we needed to buy it for a lot less.


Alice and Adam visited after we had been and sent a rating – there was some hesitation amongst us all – it looked like this was another home, with a courageous quote, that was going to see us involved, but ultimately finishing behind the winner (again).


We were firm it was worth a shot and Alice was firm she wanted it – and so all housekeeping and architectural assessments were completed under her guidance, efficiently.


Adam was also firm, there was a limit and if we were going to trickle over the limit, then this was the one.


OMG, sorry, rewind, what did you say Adam?


Mal and Gina get it done – is what I said – oh and there’s a small extra in the budget, but that’s it. Alice tells me you are good; you tell me you are good – I want to see good Mal and Gina.


Fast forward and today four years later we are here with Adam and Alice, for a Zoom update (August 2020)


Yes, the FFF is happening – Five-year Future Flexibility –renovations started a few months ago and Alice and Adam are currently in a rental. The 2nd of a 2 part stage of their dream home process has begun, now their budget allows.


Welcome Alice and Adam let’s talk, how do you feel, what are you doing, did you make the right choice 4 years ago?


Adam: The main thing is the house we bought is our home.


Gina and I thought bang, there’s the whole interview over, in almost the first sentence.

The main thing is the house we bought is our home – who says Mr Spreadsheet doesn’t have a few bags of emotion tucked away in him.


The Yin and Yang are as a whole! Job done!


We talked for a while more about many things – it was nearly an hour on Zoom and then bang another gem!


Alice: Think of the bullets we dodged in order to buy this home.


Correct – this did have an element of luck, but it was truly meant to be and every time you miss one – IF YOU ARE REALLY TRYING AND YOU KEEP GOING – you are a little bit closer to getting the good one. There is no doubt, that without our misses, we would not have had the combined togetherness, to do what needed to be done, to buy this home.


Alice and Adam: It’s the community – when we were putting up that front fence you told us to put up – the one thing we felt was the sense of community, when people would stop for a 10-minute chat. Schools, shops, neighbours – we both love the sense of community Mal and Gina.


Alice and Adam: The renovations – well you know how I wanted to renovate – and you know how I like to save money – we have found a great compromise that meets both our needs and keeps our home in a good capitalization range, for its type if we need to sell, whilst still making it even more enjoyable to live in.


Mal and Gina we are so happy we bought this home, our children love it here, we appreciated your guidance and maybe the seller should have done things differently and hired a vendors agent first-time around, because in the end, Adam was as happy with the price, as I am very happy with the home.


Alice and Adam the result was good BUT for us the journey was great. Thank you.


Buying Agent: James Buy Sell


Architect and Design: and


Selling Agent: Jonathan Graham of Bekdon Richards (good company, difficult situation)


POWER is only power if you exercise it.


The Greatest Power is often simple patience.


“It Depends” – the starting words to every lawyer’s answer * …




A true story, some of the names have been changed to protect my innocence ignorance.


It was the summer of 2007 and I remember receiving a call on the way back from golf. The call started similar enough to many others, however what I did not know then was……..this call would be an entry into the stratums of another world…


“Jack and Kate here…. we were wondering if you’d be interested in helping us Mal, we’ve heard things about you, from an associate of ours and we want to buy this home.”


I learnt more about deal making over the summer of 2007/08, than at any other time, in any other deal. Yes, I have been involved in a number of bigger ones since, however no doubt my foundation education can be traced back to this one deal.


I was the buyer agent in name, but my role was simply one of errand boy – actually I think a better way to describe what I actually contributed, was that of witness.


Two powerful Toorak families, two powerful players within our client’s family – all combined with three of the biggest practitioner heavyweights in the game.


This was the story of battles, but not in a physical way – they were psychological battles – or so I thought – however the more I live my life – the more I reflect back on those “battles” and see them differently – they weren’t battles, they were part of a game, a game like chess – with all sides knowing they had to win, but also knowing nobody could lose.


Generals and strategies, attacks and tactical retreats.


Sound of Music meets West Wing meets Moneyball.


Nothing illegal, nobody died, and he got the girl in the end.





Girl wanted guy, guy wanted girl and the deal needed to be right for both. The home was the manifest of their quests.


Neighbour wanted sale, but with incredible legal conditions, so as to protect their other block. They wanted their cake and they wanted to eat it to.


Agents wanted the deal and kudos – was this going to be the biggest sale of the year?


Lawyer wanted a clear-cut legal solution and his holidays back.


More agendas than a party-political meeting at a pending leadership change





A Girl named Kate – a chamomile drinking family matriarch with considerable skills in getting what she wanted.


A Guy named Jack – the hard talking, strong willed self-believer also with considerable skills in getting what he wanted.


The Sellers – let’s call them the Caveats.


The Selling Agents – Michael and Gerald: If there is a more experienced, more powerful dynamic duo in the history of selling Top End real estate, then they are not from Melbourne.


And they worked hard – we spoke on Christmas day and met on site on Boxing day, as part of the six weeks negotiations.


The Lawyer – Dodge from Redcourt Partners: A wordsmith magician with the wisdom of the Greek god Athena (the male version), the patience of Buddha and the creativity of Jobs (Steve that is). Have worked with him on a few more since. Is there a smarter, more affable and straight-shooting hard man of commercial law? Our only commonality at the time was he loves The Pies and so does Gerald, come to think of it.





Actually, the specifics of the story matter little, yes it was one of covenants and counteroffers, demands and compromises – any five season Netflix series would give you an idea of the colour, twists and final result.


A Script as I remember:


So are we all on this phone call – Kate, Jack, Michael and yep me.


Here’s the issues as I see it.


Thank you Mal, got any solutions to those issues. No, ok I suggest we do this……….


And so off I would toddle and then I’d ring Gerald or Michael.


They would give me a sense of it’ll be ok and then they would give me words in a code, that I thought meant no chance this deal could happen – however when I relayed them back to Jack he seemed comforted, after his feigned anger subsided.


In the end all that was missing on this massive Toorak property, was the blood and gore – although I was sure that was for me – especially each time either side, strategically lobbed a conditions grenade into my email bunker.


Mr. Dodge, Mal here, I have another potential flesh wound, it’s above my pay grade, if you could fix it and make me look good, I’d appreciate it.


No problems Mal, consider it sorted and call me Michael.


That was the story – day in and day out – until miraculously the deal was completed.


Champers, back slapping and on my part complete oblivion, as to how I had been so skilled.





Many, however, here are five key ones


  • Laser like focus – with patience and nuance pays off. Is often needed in these bigger dollar deals.


  • Holding your bottle when it’s your turn in the biorhythm of the deal, to be in the weaker position – learning to read the winds and currents a few tacks in advance.


  • Dealmakers working together whilst on different sides with different agendas is how deals get down – especially win-win-win as this deal was. Deals are done by dealmakers; good deals benefit with multiple dealmakers.

    The skill level has to go up when there is only one dealmaker and he or she is making the deal work for all sides – this happens – that was not the case here (although I was a weaker link, skillfully managed by all).


  • Words are just words and many words are tests, noise, have codes and it’s not so much the words per se, as the actions they come with or lead to.


  • Honour and ethics. Some with power lose sight of goals, ethics and honour. Power is not absolute power in my mind without class. There was a lot of class here.


Finally, from all my learnings on this engagement – this for me, was the most effective.


From that girl called Kate:  Jack get me this new homesite or get a new wife.


I loved the simplicity and cut through of this message.


To make it more impressive – it was delivered on a chair, in the garden, whilst sipping some tea and in an enchanting and calm voice.


It did the job and into the fading sunset we galloped.





Clients: Private people who approved prior to publish, in the spirit of stories getting you through this pandemic. Thank you for a great ride, Kate and Jack.


Lawyer and Mr. Fix-it: Michael Dodge –


Buying Agent: James Buy Sell


Selling Agents: Gerald Delany and Michael Gibson of Kay and Burton


* Opening power quotes are not ours – they are via google – mixed sources.



When a home is difficult to sell due to its location, its neighbours and its price – you need to think laterally. We did. It sold.