Beauty at a cost - renovating a heritage listed home

Steeped in cultural and historical significance, it’s understandable that there are restrictions when renovating a heritage listed home. While that’s not to say that you can’t make any changes, a little more legwork and creativity is often required.


We asked Cristina Bertone from The Agency to explain the speciality of buying a heritage property.


Understand what you’re doing

Working on a heritage listed property comes down to knowing the implications of your proposed plan. Understanding the reasons why certain things cannot be altered will not only help you to obtain development approval, but will also highlight why the building’s character, architecture or landscape is worth preserving.

Set yourself a budget and do not go over it. “When you are calculating the budget be realistic – people often end up spending up to twice as much as they thought they would. Always allocate enough money for the purchase and the renovations that come with the home”, says Cristina.

Determine its level of significance

Whether it lies in the external or internal features, determining where the heritage value lies will set you up for what you need for authority approval. It will also highlight where the restrictions will be imposed on your renovation works.


“You might have a beautiful old house that has a lovely front facade but that might not be the area of significance,” advises Cristina.


No cutting corners

As things can get a little complicated, having a specialist team by your side will prove invaluable. A heritage consultant, experienced architect or even a town planner can assist you throughout the whole process, from the design to dealing with the council.


“You could do it yourself but if you don’t meet the criteria, then you’ll get rejected and have to do the whole thing again,” says Cristina. “Not only can it save time and money, but you end up learning a lot along the way. These heritage professionals want to see a good result for the built environment as much as anyone, so it’s not about restricting development, it’s about doing it sensitively and for the long-term.”

“Be willing to be flexible on your timing. Often problems will occur or further work may need to be done which will lengthen the duration of the project,” Cristina advises.

“Always call a professional to remove asbestos, most of the older properties that I have sold were built before the 1990’s and do contain asbestos. You can always ask the selling agent to allow your own licensed professional to see how much asbestos is in the home and the costs involved before proceeding with an offer,” advises Cristina.


Know the difference between restoration and conservation

Commonly confused, Cristina explains that, “restoration is taking it back to its traditional form, whereas conservation is maintaining the status quo. Deciding what to do is a relatively large judgement call. I think they’re both worthwhile, it’s just a question of what you’d like to see at the end of the day.”


Bright pink is as good as cream

Considering the materials you use is imperative as you have to ensure that the property is liveable without compromising its unique character. While Cristina says “a new coat of paint won’t affect the fabric or the long-term conservation or restoration possibilities for the project, other more structural changes are where you can come unstuck.”


“If you’ve done something irreversible, like changing the window size because you want modern windows, then you get into trouble as there’d be no record of what it was and the heritage value is lost,” Cristina says.

“My last renovators delight that I recently sold was a renovation rescue. It was located in the heritage area of Hilton. It was a 1957 Queenslander 3 x 1.  Most of these properties (including the last one I sold) always had beautiful original timber floor boards that can be a hidden treasure when brought back to its original state.

“My last tip is to get as much advice as possible from other people who have renovated a property before. They may be able to tell you things which you would never have thought about, and will greatly improve your project.

Always call your local council as in some areas of Fremantle, a lot of homes are in the Heritage Listed. You need to follow the guidelines into what you may or may not be able to do to the home,” explains Cristina.

The end results will speak itself. As you have a choice of re-selling and making a profit or sit back and enjoy all the hard work you have put into this beautiful project by turning an old rundown property back to its original form.

Colin Lamb and Cristina Bertone are of a high standard in the industry so they’ll be able to recommend other professionals that will assist in your heritage home renovation. Although it may be a more arduous task than the average home, it is your opportunity to contribute to the preservation of an area’s history, which makes the cost of beauty worthwhile.

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Beauty at a cost - renovating a heritage listed home