The Smartline Report – May Edition

The month in review: Darwin

By Herron Todd White
May 2016

The moniker of heritage often carries negative connotations. Many buyers feel their options are restricted when it comes to sprucing up the home. But do these things right and you can end up with a very valuable asset.

Darwin is a very unique city when it comes to the age of buildings. Two major events have significantly affected the historical nature of the town.

The World War II bombings of Darwin from 19 February 1941 through to 1942 brought massive destruction to the streetscape, bringing much of the city to its knees. Some 33 years later, the next significant event was Cyclone Tracy which hit on Christmas Eve in 1974. Darwin had expanded and been re-built in the post war years with urban areas thriving around schools, sporting fields and following the coastline out towards Casuarina Beach. These two significant 20th century events have resulted in there being only very small pockets of heritage housing areas. Because of the widespread destruction of the northern suburbs there are almost no heritage buildings, which centres the focus around the Darwin CBD, Larrakeyah, Parap and Fannie Bay.

Much of the heritage property which was once residential has been altered for commercial and tourist operations. Think Myilly Point in Larrakeyah where the Burnett Homes are located overlooking Mindil Beach.

Other Darwin CBD locations that feature heritage properties include the Mall, with the Vic Arcade, the Paspaley building and the Westpac Bank at the Southern end of the Mall, the stone houses on Cavenagh Street and most notably the Darwin Esplanade which includes Admiralty House (now Char Restaurant) the Governor’s residence and old Post Office just to name a few.

Quite obviously there has been new development on some of these sites, with planned future developments likely. We note that all properties which are heritage listed are governed by the Heritage Act:

“The object of this Act is to provide for the conservation of the Territory’s cultural and natural heritage”.

In order to develop these properties for a higher and better use, the existing appeal must be retained. Often this will result in the original façade of the building being kept and blended into the new improvements.

The closest thing to heritage residential dwellings in Darwin include the older elevated dwellings found in Larrakeyah, Parap and Fannie Bay. Many of these dwellings were constructed in the 1950s, during the rebuild and expansion of Darwin following World War II. Entry level to these locations is now in excess of $700,000. This price point is driven by land value rather than the added value of the heritage dwelling. These properties remain popular in the market place, largely driven by location. Many purchasers choose to retain the original dwellings, undertaking significant renovation campaigns to restore and remodel.

Features of heritage and vintage residential property include elevated or low-set dwellings, excellent cross ventilation with use of high ceilings, louvre windows, wrap around verandahs and good sized balconies. The allotments tend to be heavily landscaped with large trees to provide shade from the afternoon sun. Notably these dwellings have open space underneath so the breeze can move through the dwelling, cooling it quickly once the afternoon sun sets. The more modern version of the Burnett Homes are the Troppo designed dwellings.

The market shows that this heritage or vintage style of residential property is preferred by owner occupiers rather than tenants. Given the high degree of regular maintenance and upkeep, landlords are less inclined to leave this in the hands of tenants who are unlikely to manage and incur the maintenance expenses.

So while Darwin doesn’t necessarily offer the heritage feel of older Australian cities such as Sydney and Melbourne, there are pockets and hidden gems out there which can be transformed to achieve a tropical yesteryear feeling.


Please note that information in this publication is subject to change without notice. Smartline assumes no responsibility for any errors, omissions or mistakes in this document. © Smartline Home Loans P/L 1999 – 2016. Australian Credit Licence Number 385325

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DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this article is correct at the time of publishing and is subject to change. It is intended to be of a general nature only. It has been prepared without taking into account any person’s objectives, financial situation or needs. Before acting on this information, Smartline recommends that you consider whether it is appropriate for your circumstances. Smartline recommends that you seek independent legal, financial, and taxation advice before acting on any information in this article.