What Buyers Need to Know About Heritage Homes in the Inner City and Inner West

April 6th, 2023 - by Brad Gillespie

One of the best things about living in the inner city and the inner west is the area’s rich and colourful heritage.

The gorgeous patchwork of historical buildings ranging from Victorian terraces and worker’s cottages to converted warehouses and everything in between lends our neighbourhoods their depth of character. The reason so many of these beautiful buildings have been preserved? Heritage listing. We dig into what property buyers need to know about owning a heritage home.

What is heritage listing?

Heritage significance applies to buildings and places with special historical, architectural, scientific, cultural, social, archaeological, natural or aesthetic value. These are places our community has inherited from the past and wants to hold onto for future generations. As Peter Maddison, architect and host of Grand Designs Australia, says, “heritage homes are not just buildings; they are living pieces of our history.” And it’s not only buildings that can achieve heritage listing – it can also apply to trees, gardens, monuments, objects and even entire streets.

A property becomes a heritage item when it is listed in the heritage schedule of the local council’s Local Environment Plan (LEP) or on the State Heritage Register. There is also a National Heritage List recognising places of outstanding significance to the nation, and rare buildings like the Opera House are even listed as World Heritage sites. However, most heritage homes are managed by the local council.

If your home is heritage listed, there are certain restrictions on what you can do to it in terms of renovations and alterations. Changes to the exterior and possibly also the interior will need to be approved by the council or other heritage authority to ensure the home’s character is preserved.

What about Heritage Conservation Areas?

Heritage Conservation Areas (HCAs) are zones where the buildings and elements are considered significant as a group. The properties in an HCA may or may not be individually heritage listed but will still be covered by special HCA rules. For example, while owners might not require permission to repaint their home’s exterior if it’s in an HCA, they might still be restricted to certain colour palettes in keeping with their home’s heritage and character.

HCAs are relatively common across Sydney’s inner city and inner west. In fact, our two local councils have the highest number of HCAs in the state, with 75 HCAs in the City of Sydney and 107 in the Inner West Council area.

What types of heritage homes are there in the inner city and inner west?

The City of Sydney local government area has more privately owned heritage homes than any other LGA in New South Wales, with 3181 listed residential properties. The Inner West Council comes in second, with 2036 heritage homes.

Heritage-listed homes in our local neighbourhoods include properties from the colonial, Victorian and federation periods all the way through to the 21st century. Gorgeous Victorian terraces can be found in Newtown, Alexandria and Erskineville; cute worker’s cottages still exist in Redfern, Waterloo and Zetland, Enmore is home to some stunning federation houses, and Beaconsfield still retains some beautiful art deco apartment buildings. Converted warehouses and factories dating from the turn of the century to the mid-century modern period are scattered throughout our neighbourhoods, too.

Can you make changes to a heritage property?

If you own a heritage-listed home or a property in an HCA, you’ll most likely need to seek consent for works that alter the building, whether internally or externally. It’s often simplest to engage a conservation specialist to ensure the job is done properly. It is possible to get an exemption from formal consent for some building changes, such as minor or maintenance work. Your local council can provide advice. If you’re making changes to a heritage home, it’s important to get it right. Fines can apply, as one developer discovered when they illegally demolished parts of a heritage-listed building in the City of Sydney area in 2019.

Heritage homes in the inner city and inner west are in demand

While owning a heritage-listed home comes with responsibilities, there are plenty of benefits, too. In areas like the inner city and inner west, a heritage listing can increase a property’s value. Buyers want their own slice of the character and charm our neighbourhoods are known for, so heritage homes are highly sought after. Many inner city and inner west property owners and buyers relish the role of custodian of a heritage house. After all, these homes are a big part of what makes our area so special.

Is your inner city or inner west property heritage listed?

How do you find out if your home (or a home you’re thinking of buying) is heritage listed? You can look up homes in the Inner West LGA on the council’s website, while City of Sydney LGA homeowners can call a duty planner on 02 9265 9333. You can also try searching the NSW State Heritage Register.

Are you looking to buy or sell your own unique slice of Sydney’s inner city or inner west heritage? Get in touch with our team today.