Shedding light on heritage-listed homes

Keren BellosThe West Australian
Some homes, like this grand Mount Lawley residence, are in
 Heritage Protection Areas where local government regulations apply.
Camera IconSome homes, like this grand Mount Lawley residence, are in Heritage Protection Areas where local government regulations apply. Credit: Supplied.

Whenever a heritage-listed home hits the market, it can present an exciting opportunity to own a slice of history.

There are more than 100,000 such properties across Australia, so if you’re considering snapping up a well-maintained pad or restoring a building, here’s what you need to know.

Heritage defined

A heritage listing is formal recognition that the history of a place has been identified as being of special importance to either the local community or the state, according to the Heritage Council of Western Australia.

In WA, the three main listing types are Local Heritage Surveys and Heritage Lists (both local government), as well as the State Register of Heritage Places.

Red Fox Property Group Director Natalie Hoye, who operates in heritage precincts, said each category had different levels determining a home’s significance.

She also pointed out the approach to heritage differed between local councils.

“Online portal inHerit is a great tool to find out if an individual home is heritage listed and which list it’s actually on, so you can then work out what rules and protections apply,” Ms Hoye said.

“It won’t, however, tell you if something is in a local government Heritage Protection Area, which covers the entirety of the suburb.

“Information on these areas, such as Mount Lawley, Inglewood and Menora, is only available via the relevant local council.”

Busting myths

There are two major myths surrounding heritage-listed properties, Australian Institute of Architects WA Chapter President Peter Hobbs said.

He explained some buyers believed there was a property price penalty for retaining history.

“In most places, the square metre rate for land with and without heritage places is pretty much the same,” Mr Hobbs said.

“The other myth is related to change, which at times is both necessary and encouraged, so buyers shouldn’t be afraid of heritage homes.”

The character-rich interior of the heritage-listed stunner at
 15 Throssell Street, Perth, which Acton Dalkeith recently sold.
Camera IconThe character-rich interior of the heritage-listed stunner at 15 Throssell Street, Perth, which Acton Dalkeith recently sold. Credit: Joedy Gooding/Supplied.

Making changes

Mr Hobbs said the degree to which a heritage home could be changed was guided by its level of significance.

“Places of the highest level of significance, on the State Register, need to be more carefully managed,” he said. “Many local governments are only concerned about presentation from the street, meaning they are more concerned about visual amenity than heritage.

“Some authorities endeavour to ensure that alterations can’t be seen from the street, while others require seamless changes.

“This has a lot to do with local policy and not much to do with heritage conservation.”

A good guide to what could be done was to consider whether the development would materially alter the home’s appearance.

“A garage or carport in front of the place can be an issue and a change in roof materials may be too,” Mr Hobbs said.

When it came to interiors, he said most local governments weren’t very interested in internal change from a heritage perspective.

“Most approving authorities are sympathetic to the need to make heritage places liveable and for them to retain their vitality,” Mr Hobbs said.

“Typically, changes to interiors, kitchens and bathrooms can be made to provide the ability for buyers to make the necessary upgrades.”

He said a well-designed addition could also be achieved and might be subject to development guidelines.

Agency approval

According to Mr Hobbs, maintenance and replacing like with like was generally accepted by all authorities.

“However, material changes to buildings on the State Register require a development application and referral to the Heritage Council before a development application is approved,” he said.

“Changes that alter the appearance of a local heritage place will generally require a development application to the local government.

“Additions, change of use and the like will require a development application.

“A good architect will be able to guide a homeowner through these requirements.”

Proof of heritage at 51 Swanbourne Street, Fremantle, which Caporn Young Estate Agents recently sold under the hammer.
Camera IconProof of heritage at 51 Swanbourne Street, Fremantle, which Caporn Young Estate Agents recently sold under the hammer. Credit: Supplied.

Maintenance is key

Ms Hoye said heritage homes held their value as long as they were maintained.

“Unlike some architectural and design trends, their appeal seems to be enduring,” she said. “Typically, they’ll perform much better over time than something new.

“But you need to keep up to date with maintenance to protect their value and they’ll need a bit more love than a brand new build.”

Changing hands

Ms Hoye said it generally wasn’t harder to sell a heritage home.

“Informed buyers understand that a heritage listing doesn’t mean you can’t make any changes or improvements to the property,” she said.

“In fact, buyers are often attracted to a heritage property specifically because of its protections and special characteristics.”

On the other side of the fence, it was important for buyers to understand what level of heritage protection applied to the place they were purchasing.

Getting insurance

Most heritage properties were insured the same way as any other in sound condition and occupied, according to the Heritage Council of WA.

However, some insurance companies had a policy of not insuring heritage-listed buildings.

“Talk to your insurance company or consult an insurance broker for more information,” a Heritage Council of WA spokesperson said.

“Normal insurance cover is usually sufficient for heritage-listed properties but, like all property owners, you should obtain adequate coverage to replace materials on a like-for-like basis.”

Difficulties might be encountered obtaining insurance when going through a call centre because they dealt primarily with new buildings or ‘standard’ policies.

“Any problems can normally be overcome by finding the right person within your preferred insurer and providing them with the information they need to cover your property,” the spokesperson said.

“Arranging your insurance through a reputable insurance broker is an alternative to dealing with an individual insurer.”

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