Victorian Terraces Continue to Charm

Cohen Handler’s Melbourne specialist Scott Hall is a big fan of the Victorian Terrace house. Here he outlines the key benefits of this type of housing as well as some of the issues to be aware of before buying.

Given the current popularity of the terrace house, it’s hard to believe that this type of housing was once denounced for its lack of light and propensity for dampness, and at one stage were even banned in many parts of Australia.

Characterised by its balconies and ornate iron lace features, terraces were mainly built in inner city Melbourne from the 1850’s and modeled on the established architectural styles of London and Paris. In part, terrace housing was an attempt to accommodate Melbourne’s rapidly growing population, which was somewhat driven by the Victorian gold rush.

At the end of the 19th century, many terrace house areas were in a state of significant disrepair, being located in what were some of the poorest areas of inner Melbourne.

Moreover, by the 1920’s, terrace housing was no longer being constructed in a significant sense. The 1950’s saw many derelict terraces demolished and replaced with less aesthetically pleasing Victorian Housing Commission high-rise blocks.

In the 1960’s, terraces were particularly favoured by the bohemian set, students and new Australians. Their popularity has only increased decade by decade. By the 1980’s people with high disposable incomes looking for inner city character residences started renovating them to suit a more modern lifestyle.

The seemingly insatiable demand for them continues in Melbourne in 2017.   In fact, suburbs with the highest value per square metre are those with high concentrations of Victorian terraces e.g. East Melbourne, Albert Park, Middle Park, Fitzroy, Parkville.

6 Key Benefits of Buying a Terrace

  1. Scarcity: All the original Victorian terraces that can be built have been built. This limited supply with consistent and growing demand provides for long-term capital growth.
  2. Location: Terrace houses enjoy the golden 10 km proximity to the CBD with its many benefits and desirable community infrastructure, such as access to public transport, cafes and restaurants, retail, parks and hospitals. The property becomes even more valuable if it is on a street that enjoys a historically consistent streetscape or is in a gentrifying suburb.
  3. Consistent Demand: Their charm provides for a timeless style and they are particularly sought after if they have renovation potential.  There are many impressive examples of architects creatively opening up these houses to light and space.
  4. Adaptable to Modern Living: Indoor/outdoor living can also be easily achieved through double and triple glazed glass and bi-fold doors. They can also be made sustainable with the installation of solar panels on roofs and modest water tanks in the backyard. Victorian terraces also work well with the trend for multi-purpose spaces, such as Euro laundries in bathrooms and retractable or hidden desk areas within a living room.
  5. Low-maintenance: Compared to a freestanding home with a sizeable garden, a low-maintenance outdoor space and economical interiors makes for easy living for busy people.
  6. Torrens Title property: You own both the house and land, as opposed to the strata living of townhouses and units and the associated by-laws and shared common areas.

‘Gotchas’ to Be Aware of When Buying a Terrace

  • Building condition: Victorian terraces by their very nature are old and they were often the ‘spec housing’ of their time. It is extremely important that you engage a highly competent building and pest inspector who has experience with this type of housing. Be particularly wary of damp and mould.
  • Planning: Many terraces are subject to a heritage overlay, which means you must get a planning permit for all external changes, and sometimes for painting, internal alterations and removing trees. Clients often view a heritage overlay on title as a ‘problem’ however it does serve to protect the scarcity value of the property and positions it well for capital growth.  It can be problematic if the house is the only, or one of the few of its kind in the street and the streetscape is or can in the future be dominated by multi-unit developments.

Having bought many of these houses for satisfied clients and renovated a terrace house for my own residence, Cohen Handler know first-hand how rewarding it is to be able to call such a classic and timeless house ‘home’.

If you are interested in buying a Victorian terrace in Melbourne, Cohen Handler’s team of expert buyer’s agents are specialists in finding the right property for you at the right price. Contact us now.

up icon