Recent Home Living Property Culture The Team North Shore Living
Recent Home Living Property Culture The Team North Shore Living

Renovating a heritage home on Sydney’s North Shore

Written by Matthew Bourn
Heritage or period homes are hot property but the older this style of home gets, the more problems it might have. If you own a heritage property on the north shore of Sydney, it is more than likely it will need renovating at some stage.

The challenge with renovating a property like this is completing an upgrade without destroying the home’s character and charm. You might also need to stay within
heritage guidelines, which can be strict.

The ideal heritage home renovation will bring your home into the 2020s while maintaining its original appeal. Here are some elements to keep in mind when you tackle a project on your older north shore property.

Heritage guidelines

Before you renovate, make sure you know the heritage status of your property. If your home is heritage listed, you might need permission to paint, change the roof or even install air conditioning if the unit is going to be visible from the street.

It’s a good idea to work with a builder who specialises in heritage properties. They will have an idea of what can be changed and which features must be preserved. However, don’t take your builder’s word as gospel. Generally, you will need to apply to Council with your proposed changes, with your application considered on a case-by-case basis.

Hot tip: If you are in a heritage-listed area, chat to your neighbours about their renovations. Apply for similar changes and it should be easier to get approval.

Generally, minor changes and repairs won’t require approval from Council but do your research. Failing to comply with guidelines can result in fines.

There is more information on Willoughby Council’s website here:

And here for Ku-ring-gai Council:

What stays and what goes?

When working on heritage-listed buildings, you want it to still look like an esteemed older property from the outside but to function like a new build, so to speak.

Take a look at the features of your home that highlight the period. It might be ornate lattice-work, high ceilings, beautiful stained-glass windows or a Federation-style verandah.

These things are the elements that need to stay to keep your heritage home true to character. They could be given a clean new look or be lovingly restored as part of your renovation. If they’re so old that they have to go, look for someone who can supply an exact replica but make sure you aren’t breaching those heritage guidelines.

If you are craving a more modern space, one idea is to maintain the façade of your home in as original a manner as possible. Limit the modern upgrades to the back of the house that is not visible from the street. You might wish to keep the front rooms in their original condition then update kitchens, bathrooms and living areas with more modern solutions.

Where to modernise

As you have no doubt experienced, older homes can have their problems. Clunky plumbing, cracks above door frames and lights that have a mind of their own are a few common ones. Time ravages even the best-kept home and there will be some areas that need more than a facelift.

Have a building inspector will help you to know for sure what requires replacing. The good news is fixing old problems will improve the value of your home. In many ways, a renovation of a period home is likely to pay for itself.

When renovating a heritage home, there are a lot of changes that won’t affect the overall look of the property. Think ducted air-conditioning (so long as it is not visible from the street), under-floor heating and wirelessly operated blinds and appliances.

As much as possible, select an interior style that complements the original home. For example, you can find replica tiles and a clawfoot tub for the bathroom that mimic the era when the home was built.

Let there be light

Older homes on the North Shore were often built with small windows and little natural light thanks to the high cost of glass and heating in years gone by.

To bring more light and airflow to your home, consider skylights, french doors or even a ‘conservatory/atrium’ at the back of the home. This can be where your new open-plan kitchen and living area bring the property into current times. If you decide to sell, buyers will love the blend of old and new.

The impact of heritage listing on property values

According to the Willoughby Council’s, ‘Heritage Listing - A Guide for Property Owners’ page on the website, “There is growing evidence to support the view that the maintenance of heritage qualities can contribute positively to property values.” There’s some great information here for those living in the Willoughby local government area.

A beautifully renovated heritage-listed property will be in more demand than an unrenovated one as the new owner will be spared the stress and expense of an upgrade.

Talk to us about North Shore property sales

If you have a property and need advice on selling, feel free to give us a call.

Keep Reading

Buyer Demand At All Time High As We Race Into The Spring Property Market

Buyer demand is already at an all-time high, especially within the North Shore property market. But couple with this with the typically active Spring season and the optimistic thought of lockdowns coming to an end, it truly feels as though we’re about to start one major property marathon. Read More

The North Shore Property Market Doesn't Stop During Lockdown

We’ve definitely got an “Open for Business” sign hanging on our office door Read More