Monday, November 24, 2008


My friend JC is thinking about buying a house, and as he knows I have an interest in such things, he asked for my help. I dutifully went out and within a day or two had found him the perfect house. Which is sort of a problem, since he won’t have his finances together for at least another six months.

Unfortunately when I say “perfect”, I really mean it. It’s a cosy little house from the immediate post war era, within walking distance of his work and the sorts of cafes he likes. It’s charming and friendly and seems to have a sense of “home” soaked into its bricks.

It sits on an angle on a steeply sloping block, creating lots of delightfully odd little spaces in the garden – hidden courtyards and unexpected vistas. The steep slope also means that it has a cellar, which, in a city where most houses are built by slapping a concrete slab on a sand dune then covering it in bricks and roof tiles, is about as unusual as having a portal to Narnia in the spare bedroom.

Inside there are polished wooden floors and art deco plaster cornices, a fireplace and ceiling roses. There are also strange twists in the corridors, breaks in the lines of the floors, steps up and steps down, suggesting a lifetime of different owners adding bits on and taking bits off, each with differing tastes, budgets, home handyman skills and creativity. But rather than look like a mish mash, it looks like the happily ramshackle product of ongoing serendipity.

You have to understand why this is important. Most houses in Perth are specifically designed to have no personality whatsoever. Personality makes property values difficult to calculate, or worse, actually lowers them (pauses to cross self superstitiously – we don’t like to mention such things). If a house does have personality, it has to be the sort that can be quantifiable, by producing the receipts from the landscape designer, the garden lighting contractor, and whoever painted the aubergine feature wall in the master bedroom. We are neither brave nor adventurous people.

Perhaps this explains why this particular house seems a little on the cheap side for its location: its beauty comes from the nuances of its history, not from someone pointing at a page in ‘Better Homes and Gardens’ and saying to their contractor, “I’ll have one of them.”

The only problem with this lovely house is that it sits on a largish block of land in a rapidly gentrifying area, meaning that the open house was crammed with prospective buyers. As I walked around I fixed them with narrow glares. They were all late 20s/early 30s DINKs who, I was fairly certain, were going to molest the place. I tried to work out which ones were imagining how to fit their gargantuan home theatre in the cosy living room, which ones were planning to demolish the creaking verandah and replace it with whatever trendy architectural feature they’d seen on an infotainment show, and which ones were looking to demolish the whole house and build a quartet of tightly-packed townhouses on the land.

After looking around separately for a while, JC and I met up again on the front verandah, where the current owners have deposited some ratty old sofas and hung strings of lights off the rafters. It was such a perfect party space that you could almost hear the sounds of chatting and laughter and music.

“So what do you think?” I asked him.

“I love it,” he said glumly.

And so we left. I can only hope that whoever eventually buys it will show it the fondness and consideration that it deserves.


Anonymous fishgosquish_gill said...

Oh, you had all the right words in there, I have fallen in love with the house and I haven't even seen it... Is there a real estate web page that I can go to and have a look? Being a builders daughter means I too absolutely love houses and fully understand what you mean about lack of personality in Perth houses, especially the newer ones. Loving gardening also means I really really really want a bit block but they are getting harder and harder to find :-(

9:41 AM  
Blogger Blandwagon said...

Go to and search for property ID 2509717.

10:32 AM  
Anonymous fishgosquish_gill said...

Oh, now I'm drooling... That is such a good price for the area too. The block looks huge but it is only listed as 736 sqm, surely that isn't right? Oh why do you torture me like this Blandwagon...

8:52 AM  
Blogger Blandwagon said...

736sqm is huge, fish. It's more than double the size of the block on which my house sits.

Bear in mind, also, that real estate agents are masters of the darker photographic arts, wedging themselves into corners or standing in doorways when taking pictures to make rooms seem larger.

9:27 AM  
Anonymous TroyG said...

It's a shame it's not going for auction (?) because you could turn away all the buyers by lously talking about the poor results that your surveyor returned: dilapidated, toxic materials and so on. You can also plant some 'undesirable' neighbours to come out and perform a social exorcism, leaving JC free to make the purchase.

Alternatively, you can do the same at every open day.

11:29 AM  
Anonymous fishgosquish_gill said...

Sorry Blandwagon... I love gardening, a decent size block in my head is at least 1000sqm, which you can sometimes find in the St James area. The block that this house is on would about the same size of the block I currently live in. In comparison to the ridiculously piddly blocks that are for sale these days with new houses, it is gigantic. I'm happy to help you out with the putting people off tactic if you need some 'dodgy' neighbours ;-)

12:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Never go looking for property before you have finances in place! You are bound to see the perfect place. That said. I agree it does seem a pretty nice place at a good price. Jaymez

1:26 AM  

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