10 features to look for when buying a period home

So, you’ve got your heart set on buying a period home. There’s something about the curved windows in art deco apartments or the pressed metal ceilings in an old Edwardian that draws you out of bed on a Saturday morning onto a trail of open homes.

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With generations of people’s lives written in the walls, an older home tells a story – it has a heart and soul.

Structurally speaking, older homes are generally built on stronger foundations, are more durable and have better insulation than their modern counterparts. Importantly, they can also bring in bigger returns.

Buyers’ advocate from Channel Nine’s The Block, Frank Valentic says older homes are generally more likely to sell for a higher price than modern homes in the same area.

He admits to being a tad biased – Valentic has lived in period homes for over 28 years – he’s had Californian Bungalows, Edwardians and now an Art Deco house in Elwood, which he calls home.

With both professional and personal experience in buying period homes, Valentic knows better than most which features will command a stronger premium.

Here are his Top 10 features to look for when buying a period home.

1. Hallway

If a period home is renovated, usually the heritage features will be retained at the front of the house, with a more modern extension out the back. Valentic says the front door is an important feature to look out for if you’re buying a period home.

Hallway

 

“Having a nice decorative front door leading down a wide hallway always impresses my buyers,” he says.

A spacious hallway with picture rails is another hallmark of older design. Renovators might be temped to knock down a large entrance hall taking up space that could be converted elsewhere – to a bedroom or living area, but Valentic says they should hold back.

“You could almost kick a footy down some of those older hallways, and my clients love that.”

2. Windows

Led light windows

 

Whether they’re led-light, stained glass, double-hung casement or curved in the Art Deco style – the windows in period homes will stand out as a defining feature.

“You get people replacing them with aluminum and it stands out like a sore thumb,” Valentic says.

3. Fireplace

Fireplace

 

Everyone loves a good fireplace, and period junkies won’t be able to resist an original.

“Marble or tessellated tile fireplaces with timber mantle pieces will stand the test of time, particularly if the fireplace is still functional,” Valentic says.

4. Ceilings

Intricate ceiling

 

“The best thing about period homes is the high ornate ceilings,” Valentic says.

“That’s something my clients will look for – space gives them a feeling of grandeur. Having those 10-11ft ceilings is a real bonus.”

Victorian or Art Deco motifs found in ceiling moulds, decorative cornaces and ceiling roses will also add value to an older home.

The pressed metal and coffered ceilings popular during the Federation architectural period always ensue plenty of “wows” from buyers, Valentic says.

Get it right: Which architectural style is which?

5. Floors

Polished floorboards

 

Look for homes that have baltic pine or hardwood floors in their bones. Valentic says this is one of the first things that buyers will try to tick off. If they’re covered up in horrendous carpet, it doesn’t matter. A strip, sand and polish can get them looking just as good as they did in their original state.

6. Space

Spacious bedroom

 

This is a big one given the rising value of land. Too often, new homes compromise on space.

“Some of the rooms they build now – you couldn’t swing a cat in them,” Valentic says.

“Older style bedrooms could be 6 x 6 metres, some of the newer ones are half of that.”

Also look out for formal lounges and living rooms, which are generally bigger proportioned that their modern counterparts.

7. Verandahs

Look for intricate fretwork and stucco in Victorians, solid columns in Californian Bungalows and timber broomstick balustrades and led light glass screens in Federation homes.

Federation verandah

 

“The verandah can be a real showpiece,” Valentic says. “It provides aesthetic street appeal.”

8. Colour

Fitzroy renovation

 

Buyers should look for areas that are heritage overlay listed. This means that you won’t get another home owner compromising your street appeal by painting their house bright pink next to yours.

“It affects the neighbourhood character of the area if you see a home with bright and loud colours,” Valentic says. “I see it as a positive if the properties either side of yours are in a heritage overlay area.”

9. Picture rails

Picture rails

 

Picture rails were at the height of popularity in the 19th century and most older homes spanning this period will have them. If you’re looking for a period home and it doesn’t tick this box, don’t despair. They can always be inserted later on, but be aware that future buyers will be looking for them.

10. Exterior

The facade of a home is the biggest indicator of the decade it hails from.

Iron lace – mid-Victorian.

Pyramidal roofs – Queen Anne Federation.

Geometric shapes – Art Deco.

No matter what decade you’re talking about, the facade is the first and last impression buyers will have of a home – and every period home has one.

Bay windows

 

Valentic says there are some great outlets that source period features from demolition yards. But if you come across a home with all the features intact, hold onto it. However, one word of warning:

“Period homes are great, but if you’re buying a period home that needs work, you’re going to be looking at a massive outlay.

“The structural costs of doing renovations can be enormous – I would always advise buyers they get proper quotes.

“You’ve got re-roofing, re-plumbing, re-wiring – that can be 100,000s of dollars before you even look at putting in that new kitchen or bedroom retreat.”

Top tips: Renovating period homes in Australia

Despite the costs they pose, Valentic is convinced period homes are here to stay.

“People just love that timeless appeal. They’ve always been more popular, and they always will be – so long as we don’t destroy them.”