What is a heritage-listed home?

Written by view.com.au in Buying

You might have heard the term ‘heritage-listed’ before but never really considered that it could one day apply to your real estate goals. People often think of grand mansions or pokey one-bedroom homesteads when they hear ‘heritage-listed’, but there is a wide range of properties available in Australia that have heritage listing status, so never discount the fact that you may have to one day know just what this term means.

Essentially, a property or building can attain a heritage status if it has Indigenous, natural, or historical importance, including whether or not its architecture warrants its classification. There are often many heritage-listed properties on the market at any given time, and you may find yourself falling in love with one as you seek a new lifestyle or look to buy your first home, as they range from the grand to the modest, suiting all buyers.

'Zetland' in Melbourne's Hawthorn was built around 1873 and has achieved heritage status. It became available on the market in 2019.

‘Zetland’ in Melbourne’s Hawthorn was built around 1873 and has achieved heritage status. It became available on the market in 2019.

The Australian Heritage Council is in charge of assessing a potential property’s status and do so according to a range of criteria. These criteria are quite varied, and may have no relation to the actual building or natural rarity/nature of a property, but relate to a location’s significance in the historical development of Australia or in its natural or cultural importance.

Some of Australia's oldest buildings still come up on the market, like the Monaltrie Homestead, which was built in 1862.

Some of Australia’s oldest buildings still come up on the market, like the Monaltrie Homestead, which was built in 1862.

There is now an easy way to identify individual properties that may be heritage-listed or entire areas by which development may be constrained due to heritage concerns.

Landchecker.com.au allows you to identify two heritage-specific criteria in Victoria: heritage overlay and Cultural Heritage Sensitivity.

Lanchecker.com.au allows you to identify heritage overlays

Lanchecker.com.au allows you to identify heritage overlays

A heritage overlay is set by a local council as part of its planning scheme, and is often suggested to the council first by the community and/or historical societies.

A heritage overlay may affect your plans for the development of an individual property, or they may not. A heritage overlay can cover entire blocks within a neighbourhood, such as seen in the above image from Landchecker. Within these overlays, individual buildings or topographical features may not carry individual significance, and so may still be open to future planning with the council’s approval.

What is important to remember is that due to a heritage overlay, you require a planning permit for a number of actions, including:

  • subdividing land
  • demolish or removing a building (including part of a building)
  • constructing a building (including part of a building or a fence)
  • externally altering a building
  • constructing or carrying out works
  • constructing or displaying a sign
  • externally painting an unpainted surface
  • externally painting a building if the painting constitutes an advertisement.

What is Cultural Heritage Sensitivity?

Lanchecher.com.au quickly highlights areas of Cultural Heritage Sensitivity

Landchecker.com.au quickly highlights areas of Cultural Heritage Sensitivity

An area of Cultural Heritage Sensitivity is specific to the Indigenous cultural history/importance of a property, particularly within a larger area of sensitivity. When developing within these areas (as can be quickly visualised at Landchecker), you may be required to obtain a Cultural Heritage Management Plan to work in unison with local Indigenous groups and leaders.

Restrictions on a heritage-listed home

If you do buy a heritage-listed home, be aware that your ability to renovate will be significantly constrained, especially as it concerns the structural integrity of the building. While you can often renovate the kitchen and bathroom of a heritage-listed home as well as make repairs (paint, light fixtures etc.), major changes the building’s structure and external condition/presence are usually restricted. Repairs may also need to consider the types of existing materials present in the home, and require you to source similar or like materials for continuity.

Why buy a heritage-listed home?

Investors are sometimes dissuaded from buying a heritage-listed home because of the potential constraints on development as well as unforeseen expenses that come from buying an old building.

A property may not be heritage-listed, but may sit within or near a heritage-listed area. such as a rainforest, which ensures the longterm future stability of your investment.

A property may not be heritage-listed, but may sit within or near a heritage-listed area. such as a rainforest, which ensures the longterm future stability of your investment.

However, there are a number of significant incentives for buying a heritage-listed home, the largest of which is continuity. The real estate market may fluctuate in terms of price cycles, but heritage-listed homes, especially those within heritage overlays, often benefit from a greater sense of continuity in capital growth due to the lack of development or change in the immediate surrounding area. There is also the potential allure for future buyers that comes from an investment in a heritage-listed home. Like a vintage car, there is the potential for the property’s provenance to add increasing value, while some heritage-listed properties can qualify for government grants to aid in their maintenance.