Old period apartments are still holding their own in the Sydney market, despite – or sometimes even because of – the rising number of new developments for sale off the plan.

While the lure of the new is obvious – the latest design, and often gyms and pools – the glow of the old remains undimmed.

“A lot of buyers, particularly owner-occupiers, have a genuine passion for period and art deco apartments,” says Byron Rose, spokesman for the Real Estate Buyers’ Agents Association of Australia. “Investors tend to be less emotion but, with older apartments, they know they’ll never have any problem getting tenants.”


Good period apartments, from the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s, can be found all over Sydney, especially around the older suburbs close to business hubs.

Many of the most stylish are in the CBD, the eastern suburbs and the inner west, in suburbs like Potts Point, Elizabeth Bay, Bellevue Hill, Double Bay, Darling Point, Randwick, Leichhardt, Canterbury, Summer Hill, Ashfield, Lewisham and Dulwich Hill.

On the Lower North Shore there are some fine examples too, including the Gone With The Wind-style The Cove in Mosman, and many around Kirribilli. In the south, too, there are pockets, including in Cronulla and Caringbah South.

“People often prefer smaller blocks rather than big, modern blocks, and they have so much character, with high ceilings and period features,” says Shane Slater of Ray White Lower North Shore.

Those features often include picture rails, bay windows, ornate ceilings, polished floorboards, separate kitchens or dining rooms which usually help them sell for a premium, says Adrian Bo of McGrath Estate Agents, Coogee. “If you have a period apartment and a modern one side-by-side, with an identical floor space, then the art deco one will sell for more,” he says.

They’re solidly built and often larger, with bigger rooms, too, which can give them more of the feel of a semi-detached house, according to Gabriela Rodriguez of Raine & Horne, Summer Hill. That bigger size is another reason they’re usually more expensive, says Rose. They might both have two bedrooms but, on the same rate per square metre, the period one will attract a higher price.

And while new apartments might have more efficient use of their smaller space, with open-plan living, “a lot of people like having separate rooms, nooks to display ornaments and photos, and shelves and deeper windowsills,” says Penny Timothy of Ray White Elizabeth Bay.

“Although many art deco buildings are well-run company title, they might be unrestricted company title, which means they can be tenanted, too.”

Of course, modern apartments have lots of advantages, like bigger, more user-friendly balconies and internal laundries – many of the old-style apartments have shared laundries – and tend to have more glass to let in light.

But quarterly levies are lower in period apartments, as they don’t have so many lifts or common facilities and, since they’re in smaller blocks, says buyers’ agent Stuart Jones of Rose and Jones, they have fewer regulatory requirements such as 10-year sinking funds or for financial accounts to be audited every year. “Second-hand properties don’t attract GST, either,” he says.

“And with period apartments, you’re paying for their uniqueness. Their growing scarcity is only ever going to add value.”

The top 10 things to look out for in period costumes

1. Pests, such as white ants, in wooden floorboards.

2. Problems with the brickwork.

3. Whether they are vertically soundproof. “Most period apartments are well-built with brick internal walls so there’s no sound transference horizontally … but the floorboards could make them noisy vertically,” says Byron Rose.

4. Whether there are any fire orders in place and, if so, that there is the money in the sinking fund to pay for them.

5. Check the building’s records thoroughly to make sure there are no other big costly issues coming up, such as having old wiring replaced in all the apartments, or any lifts replaced. Follow up with a call to the secretary and strata manager, just in case the records haven’t been minuted properly.

6. The possibility of scope to improve your individual apartment, for example building an attic extension if you’re on the top floor, or knocking out internal walls to open the place up.

7. If there’s potential for adding value to the block generally, such as clipping on balconies, or clearing outdoor space to create parking.

8. Check comparable buildings to make sure you’re not being carried away by the romance of a period building, and you’ll be paying the right price.

9. Is the block strata-titled or community-titled? If the latter, what restrictions are there on renting out your apartment? What scope might there be for change?

10. Are the levies set too low to decently maintain the building? A shabby entry foyer may be a sign that they are, and that may lower the whole tone of the place.

View the article by Domain.com.au here

Glow of the Old Remains Undimmed