Seddon House :: The House of Horrors
By Dani Wales
I had my first taste of renovating when I appeared on both The Block 2012 and The Block All Stars with my partner Dan. We were so fascinated by the experience as a whole we decided to try our hand at making a living out of the whole renovating/developing for sale thing.
Most would say we are bat-shit crazy for wanting to put ourselves through that kind of pressure 24/7, but we found so much pleasure in our Block experience, we felt we had to give it a crack.
Our next and (current) project after completing our second Block stint kicked off in mid 2013 with an amazing period home located in Seddon built in the year 1900, which was left uncompleted and very much unloved by the previous owners. It was basically just a facade and a frame, and in all honesty, a basket case. It really needed a complete structural renovation so the pressing question was “is this a worthwhile project?”
Short answer, yes! And over the coming months I’ll be sharing our experience renovating Seddon House from the ground up.
Location, location, location! The first step in our project planning process for Seddon House was to ensure that the location supported the investment in money, time and energy. No matter how you spin it, the block is tiny and at just on 200 square meters, the site coverage of the house we were planning would be 80%. So we checked out the general data and liked some of the things we saw.
Number one was that the profile of the demographic was ~23% maturing and established independence, followed by independent young and established couples and families. Tick! Tick! Tick! Seddon is gentrifying and has people moving in to the location and constantly upsizing, so demand is high.
The median house price increased over the course of two years from $650,000 to just over $770,000. Another big tick! But when it came down to it, getting to know the suburb was super important, so Dan and I toured Seddon extensively and liked we saw.
Seddon was originally a suburb for the industrial workers in the local heavy industry, so the houses were small workers cottages serviced by good public transport. Of course where there were workers, there were lots of local pubs and good shops. So Seddon has an emerging scene of lots of new hospitality venues taking advantage of low rents, as these older strip shops went out of fashion in the 1980’s and 1990s.
A relatively small suburb squished in between Footscray, Yarraville and Kingsville, demand is high in Seddon with an average of 1300 people inspecting each property for sale compared with a Victorian average of 400.
In real terms we liked the dynamics of the suburb, in terms of location, demand and dynamics of change. So we got thinking, how can we do something special on this small block that we will appeal to our market? The ideas came flooding in thick and fast. Cover the site as much as possible but make the indoor outdoor thing really work; make sure we have a minimum of three bedrooms so a growing family can keep growing; keep the facade but go contemporary; spend money on killer joinery and make things hard wearing; don’t over capitalise and on and on the list went.
Armed with our list of key prerequisites we developed some concepts ideas and ran them past our draftsman with two questions “could we make this work?” and “would we get a permit?” Well basically the fun and games, and overall ease of the project ended there as one of our neighbours lodged an objection to the project. This kind of threw me for six, as the house had literally been an eyesore for two years I thought that every resident in the street would have been thrilled just to see it completed and potentially raise the overall value of the street.
The objection was around the view from their first level, however as you can’t actually claim rights to a view (except in extreme circumstances) it didn’t go any further than that. Council awarded in our favour and although we attempted to reach out and compromise, we got no response so proceeded as planned. This objection period however, and constant delays from council pushed the build back a whopping six months and we weren’t granted a building permit until January 2014.
And so it all began… design, demolition, building, and all the joys associated with bringing a dilapidated vacant period home back from the brink of destruction. It has been an interesting, heartbreaking and exciting experience but all in all we will make a very ordinary space, incredible.
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