Toby Johnstone May 19, 2012
The before and after facades of the Cleveland Street terrace.
A family approach yields dividends with an ambitious facelift of adjoining terraces.
Two unrenovated terraces, two brothers and a two-part plan. Jonathan and Chris Pearce picked up adjoining Chippendale terraces in late 2010 for $675,000 each. Between them they needed only one, and they wanted a nice one at that. Jonathan, who works in corporate finance, and Chris, who heads a small building company, put their heads together and set about an ambitious renovation, one terrace at a time. Now, about 18 months later, they have sold the first one through BresicWhitney Darlinghurst for $940,000, $5000 short of the Cleveland Street record.
Out with the old
As is the case with many Chippendale terraces, the first property they planned to renovate - a four-bedroom property - was packed with tenants. Jonathan says eight people were living there. With student housing so expensive, it's not uncommon for share houses close to universities to be overcrowded. However, even after the tenants were given notice and moved out, their legacy remained.
"It was so dirty that you wouldn't wash your dog in it,'' Jonathan says.
That meant the pair spent considerable time ripping up soiled carpets, knocking down crumbling walls and effectively gutting the property.
Plans in motion
Knock-down rebuilds are out of the question in areas such as Cleveland Street. City of Sydney council is a stickler for preserving the facade of Victorian terraces - and rightly so. However, this limits renovation options. Jonathan and Chris spent four months negotiating with the council on small aspects of the design that were not in line with heritage restrictions.
The pair saved money by drawing the design themselves and consulting a freelance architect for measurements.
The first step was to extend the house at the back of the property. This allowed the pair to replace the derelict kitchen, which probably had not been used to cook food in a long time, with a stylish Miele outfit featuring a custom polished-concrete bench. The kitchen now adjoins the open-plan living and dining area, which opens out via bi-fold doors to a well-lit patio that faces north.
Upstairs, the layout has changed completely. Both bedrooms, in effect, have their own bathroom and the smaller of the two has a balcony overlooking the garden.
The auction of this property could have gone either way. On the one hand, the house is on one of Sydney's busier streets and buyers might have been wary of the potential for traffic noise. The pair combated this by soundproofing the front of the property.
Retrofitting windows and doors with double glazing is expensive, so the pair opted to use extra-thick glass on the windows with careful attention to applying the seals well.
The second element was the fact that the product was new and designer terraces this close to the city are in demand.
There were two serious bidders on the day, with one dropping out after the vendor bid of $920,000 was placed. The brothers are comfortable with the final price of $940,000 - but as Jonathan puts it, ''everyone likes a little bit more''.
It takes two …
The benefit of buying and renovating adjoining terraces with identical floor plans is that you can learn from your mistakes. The original budget for the first renovation was about $120,000 but this blew out to more than $200,000, reflecting three main factors.
The first was the numerous plumbing variations that had to be made throughout the build, which is not surprising considering the house went from having one bathroom to three.
There was also unforeseen structural work, such as replacing crumbling brick walls and inserting structural steel.
The final area where costs rose was the high-quality finishes, including bathroom fittings and the Miele kitchen.
However, the second project is under way and appears to be a much smoother and cheaper process.
In line with the brothers' well-timed plan, the adjoining terrace will be finished before the new owners move into this one. That means the pair can forget the need for a moving truck, shimmy their things next door and enjoy a new home, perfected by trial and error.
Time Six months.
Land size 123 sq m.
Internal size 119 sq m.
Builder JCP Construction & Development, 0406 362 122.
Jonathan says: "We put a lot of insulation throughout the property. We tried to use recycled materials but for things like the floorboards, it ended up being too expensive."
Jonathan says: "The living area and the way it flows out to the backyard. Once you open the big bi-fold doors out the back, it really feels like one big room. It's also a great place to entertain."
Jonathan says: ''Always budget more and hopefully you will spend less.''
What went right
The pair secured a buyer on the auction day, for a near Cleveland Street record.
What went wrong
The budget blew out by nearly $100,000.
The DA process dragged on for nearly four months.
Metal roofing $2400
Steel stairs $4000
Fixtures and fittings $7000
Timber flooring $9000