ARTICLE  Persephone Nicholas

Looking for an affordable property to renovate? Don’t overlook the gabled cottages that were built towards the end of the last century and are still plentiful in many Australian suburbs.

Characterised by their low build, simple brickwork facades and gabled roofs, these vintage homes can provide the perfect blank canvas for renovators. You may be able to build up as well as extend out, giving you the opportunity to create a home with a much larger footprint than the original cottage.

These boxy, typically brick and/or timber single storey homes may not be renowned for their architectural merit or character, but there can be advantages to that. If you buy one to renovate you’re less likely to encounter the constraints of working with a heritage property and will probably enjoy a much higher degree of flexibility about what you can and cannot do (subject to Council regulations, of course).

A building inspection is a must

While these cottages can present big opportunities for improvement, it’s very important to research the property you’re interested in thoroughly and to be aware of any major issues or defects before committing to purchase.  Be mindful of the fact that the building boom of the 1980s and 90s caused a shortage of building materials in some regions resulting in some homes being built from cheap, poor quality materials. 

If you’re considering buying a home from this period, investing in a comprehensive building inspection can pay great dividends. Sagging floors and ceilings, leaking roofs, movement or subsidence, dry or wet rot, or termite damage can all be expensive to put right, will extend the time your renovation takes and probably make it a lot more stressful too. 

If your inspection report reveals significant issues such as these, you’d be well advised to bring in the professionals and get a proper estimate on the cost of remedial works.

If you then decide to go ahead with buying the property, at least you’ll know what you’re letting yourself in for and may also have some extra leverage when it comes to negotiating on price.

An example of sagging ceiling

Exterior updates

When planning your renovation, be sure to allocate some of your budget to updating and enhancing the exterior of your property to improve its kerb appeal. Cleaning up the brickwork, refreshing paintwork and adding new, larger windows, plus an updated front door and letter box are all worth doing. 

Think about removing and/or replacing features, such as balustrades, which can instantly date a property.  Repair and perhaps extend an existing veranda and ensure perimeter fencing or walls and driveways or paths are in good condition.

If your budget allows, it could be worth rendering the exterior of the property and thinking about how to create the indoor/outdoor flow that most of us are looking for these days. Bi-fold doors that open onto a shaded deck with room for a barbecue and a dining and seating area will make the home seem larger, increase its appeal to potential buyers in the future and therefore add value. If your budget doesn’t run to fresh landscaping, you may be able to move and replant existing plants to great effect. 

Interior inspiration

While many of the features of these cottages are no longer in vogue, it’s worth taking the time to consider if there is anything you could update to give it a new lease of life. There might be hardwood floors hidden beneath old carpets or perhaps there’s a stone or brick fireplace that could be painted or refinished to become a focal point for the lounge area.  

Similarly, raked pine ceilings may remind you of the 70s in their original state, but could provide the bones for a space-enhancing vaulted ceiling if painted in modern tones. It may also be possible to install skylights to help draw light into the centre of the home.

Breeze blocks, a common feature in 60s and 70s homes, are experiencing a revival these days. A quick online search will reveal how architects are using them to create texture and pattern in contemporary buildings. Follow their lead and use breeze blocks to create features, such as decorative walls and outdoor rooms, in keeping with the original home.

An example of gabled cottages house

Avoid over-capitalising

The gabled cottages of the last century can be a great way to move up the property ladder. They can be more affordable than other types of property and offer plenty of scope for renovators to make a place their own. Even so, it’s important not to over-capitalise on these homes, which may never be as highly valued as more prestigious styles of architecture. 

We all love to look to high-end homes for design inspiration (particularly when it comes to kitchens and bathrooms), but it’s generally wise to shop for fixtures and fittings with an eye to a property’s potential resale value – even if you plan to live there for years to come.

You might be interested in reading our Project management glossary.

 

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*All information is believed to be true at time of publishing and is subject to change.

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