If you walk down any English street or road, the chances are, you will be met by rows of uniformly built housing. Even the newer housing estates of this green and pleasant land are made up of only a few (maybe half a dozen) variations in house styles in as many as 200 homes. It all looks kind of deliberate and for the want of a better word, orderly…
First impressions of Australian housing however couldn’t be any further from what I am used to, the image I have portrayed above. The housing here seems to be a simple case of build whatever you like (within regulations of course) and sod what the neighbours might think. There are of course some precautions put in place, but they don’t always appear to do the trick. And it is quite rare to find a street over here of uniformly built housing but things are getting slightly better in that respect with the building of some new ‘same style’ housing complexes (similar to the housing estates back home).
|All of these houses above neighbour each other on the same street.|
A typical scenario in most Australian suburbs.
And coming from within the building trade, the only problem I have with any of this (so called) freedom of expression in Australian housing is that there is no accounting for the ‘keeping up with the Jones’ brigade, and where one day you may have a home you can be proud of, along can come Mr & Mrs next door who proceed to build what could be either a masterpiece (shadowing your own efforts) or a complete abomination (knocking the value (aesthetic if not monetary) of your own efforts), and yes there are actually signs of just that happening all over the place. And there seems (on the surface at least) to be very little you can do about it.
You see back home, even though the properties are generally a hell of a lot smaller on the whole, an Englishman’s home is said to be his castle. So when a house is built in England it is generally built to last in excess of a hundred years and it is constructed of long lasting materials like stone, brick and slate for both weather proofing and durability, and it is subject to being to some degree, harmonious to the neighbouring properties.
The house is then home to a party for as long as that party is willing and able to live there and maintain it and it is then sold on when said party gets bored of it or wishes to move on. The property is generally regarded to be the main item of value in a man’s wealth.
And while you can personalise, chop and change your home, the basic housing stock remains very similar in shape and style bar the odd extension here or there. But from what I have gleaned In Australia, this doesn’t seem to be the case. Whereas in England the more talented of property developers would look out for “doer uppers” – run down properties to be renovated and resold for profit. In Australia it seems the land is more the real key to a man’s riches.
Properties over here seem to take second fiddle to the actual land they are sitting on. And when a property goes up for grabs here, it seems that the land the property sits on is usually the significant part of the deal. And there is a great possibility the existing property could be simply pulled down to make way for something er… better? Even heritage listed buildings are not safe over here with ‘accidental’ fires often accounting for their demise when it comes to redevelopment.
With this in mind it appears that most of the older homes are therefore only sold for a token scrap value, merely given away with the land they sit on. A house here is sold more as a plot of land (usually a quarter of an acre) and the condition of the property often bears little consequence to the value of the land it comes along with. Houses are even shipped away for resale here.
There are also signs of one-upmanship everywhere you look in the Australian housing stock. Bigger and better properties are sprouting up among the hoi polloi and the inevitable race for best takes on new dimensions as the houses grow out of all proportion and inevitably out-price themselves from normal home buyers.
It’s a sad situation really, as the only way to progress from there would be to sub-divide plots to bring back affordability. But that in turn, will lead to a new move towards building condominiums and shared housing with a tendency for a lot more ‘building’ and less garden spaces and then an inevitable need to grow upwards with high rises taking the place of today’s more sprawling but modest in comparison bungalows.
And then there are the homes for the rich…
“Hello Mr Builder… Can you come round and throw up on my front garden please?”
I’m sorry if that sounds a little insulting, but to the richer people of Australia, what the hell are you thinking? Is it so hard to put a little thought into what you are building? Driving around some of the more affluent areas of the Gold Coast, it is easy to believe that there simply is no accounting for taste and there is definitely no monopoly on good taste by the rich alone.
Yes they may be able to afford the stuff we lesser mortals can only dream of, but please… it costs nothing to look and when we look your way, we often find it hard not to laugh…
Some of the creations on show really look like they could have been put together better by a three year old with a decent sized bucket of Lego. Bigger and brasher is not always beautiful, better or a brilliant use of wealth guys. Diamonds for example, carry their value in their perfection more so than in the size alone.
So please, please, please, make your extensions sympathetic to the rest of your building, incorporate the monolithic statues and the like ONLY if it suits the building rather than your egos. And God help you when it comes to ever selling up. What was your overall strategy for resale values again? Was it that of good planning or simply planning blight that you built your home and your country’s heritage around?
|Click here for a 'full house' album|
But don’t get me wrong here, a lot of Australian home owners take a real pride in their homes and there really is some stunning architecture going on around here giving a wide and varied stock of housing to suit all tastes. Some of them are really quite nice too. But another thing that seems quite odd to a sun starved Brit, is the way the Aussies tend to cover up all their windows with shades or blinds or trellis works. Either that or have great clumps of trees bang up to the front of the property obscuring all views. And if they don't do any of those, the next option is to build six,seven or eight foot walls all the way round the place which is a real shame when places can look this good.