ACE #1

ACE (Aspect, Contour and Elevation)…amongst other things!

This post will be broken into 2, 3 or more parts and is a rambling recollection of issues I’ve encountered over the years.

Many of the points I’ll raise are still the cause of much grief as people fail to ask, heed or properly interpret professional advice and rely far too much on advertising, promotional blurb and spin.

Talk to your future neighbours.  Don’t be shy. They know what’s going on.

The high vs low side of the street.  Unless the low side of the street has some special aspect, such as a view of the golf course, avoid it.  I’ve seen houses filled with storm water because street gutters failed and dumped thousands of litres into the garage and under the front door.

In most houses where the driveway is sloped down toward the garage, the drain in front of the garage door is totally inadequate. Barely able to cope with run-off from the drive and surrounding gardens and lawns, when faced with a flood from the road, most fail completely.  Few owners bother to lift the grates and empty the drain of leaves, grass and mud, rendering them useless.

Typically but not always, properties on the low side of the street are there as a result of the cut and fill of a formerly natural slope.  If you are buying land to build on, engineers require a Soil Test be conducted to assess the suitability of the site for building and to assist engineers with their designs.  Even with an existing house, I advise clients to have a soil test conducted anyway, regardless of the age of the house, to assess the potential for future land slip, problems with drainage and so on.

Cul de Sac.  A quiet dead end part of the street or a perpetual annoyance?  I’ve built on a cul de sac and was glad I took good advice before I did.  Drivers become lost in estates that have a lot of cul de sacs as part of their design so you can end up with a fair amount of traffic you don’t want, or need.  This can become a real pain at night when people who are lost drive with their lights on high beam, trying to figure out where they are.

If your house, or future house, is on very left hand side of the cul de sac as you approach, not much of a problem, but if you are anywhere where high beam is going to light up your lounge or worse, the master bedroom, this is going to drive you nuts.

When inspecting houses or land in a cul de sac, again, “ask the existing owners” and look for circular skid marks to make sure that Hoons haven’t been using it for burnout practice.  A higher price range does not equal less chance of Hoon activity.  I lived in a gated street where homes averaged $2 million apiece.  At the end of the street a family used to drag race their $150,000.00 cars up and down the street at all hours.  Traction control “OFF” and their wheels spin and make as much noise and smoke as any other anti-social moron in a $500.00 piece of junk!

Flooding.  Again, read and take notes on the reports you’ll pay for from your lawyer or conveyancing firm, but make sure you talk to the locals. Whilst the street and property you’re looking at may not register in official statistics, sometimes it’ll suffer from localised nuisance flooding during isolated events. If it’s the last block of land to sell in a street, ask yourself why.  Is it because it has been tightly held for capital gain or has it been on the market dozens of times and never sold.  Don’t be the sucker who buys a lemon.

Road Reserves.  If the road in front of or behind the house or land has an unusually wide grassed, planted or sealed area that “looks odd”, investigate further.  A simple two lane street can turn into a 4 lane major artery almost overnight. I’ve seen this happen locally and the only giveaway at the time was the higher and thicker than normal back fences, which turned out to be a kind of noise barrier.  It was only after I asked Main Roads that I found, and reported in my Newsletter at the time, that this road was scheduled to change from a two lane quiet street into a main through route between two rapidly developing suburbs.  No-one I spoke to in the street knew anything about the road widening before they bought.  I would’ve thought that a Main Roads search by lawyers and conveyancers would’ve revealed that information. Apparently not.  That told me that either the appropriate searches were NOT being conducted for purchasers or that buyers didn’t understand the ramifications of the searches provided.

Power lines.  There are 2 schools of thought on big power lines.  They’re either dangerous or they’re not.  I’ve learned never to argue the point!  I was contacted by an overseas investor to sell his “Investment” property that hadn’t been performing too well.  He told me that he couldn’t get a tenant.  I knew the property well – a really lovely two story home that faced north over a pretty park and water feature.  However, not too far away were monstrous high voltage power lines that fizzed and popped in high humidity and made all sorts of scary noises when it rained.

He’d never seen the property, buying it Off The Plan from a promoter who’d visited his country. He was not happy with my Appraisal showing such a low price compared to other recent sales (many made by me) in the same street.  We emailed back n forth and it was only when I sent him some photos clearly showing the power lines and towers that he exploded in anger.  He scanned and emailed me the full colour brochure he’d relied on in making his purchase.  It included an aerial photograph of the house/land package and its fabulous north facing aspect overlooking parkland.  THE POWER LINES HAD BEEN CROPPED OUT!  What have I said about not believing glossy brochures, advertising and spin?  Here was a classic example of not just misleading advertising but outright fraud!

I eventually sold the house to a lady who didn’t care about the power lines and she was more than happy with the price.  The discount for being so close to sizzling voltage?  35%.

Last heard my seller was in deep discussions with his Aussie lawyer.

(Don’t forget to pay the same attention to large power substations nearby – they have a habit of expanding as an area grows)

First in the street.  If you buy land or a house and land package try not to be first in the street or area.  Why?  Because you don’t know how long it will take for the area to be fully built.  Just because your house, and maybe quite a few others, are under construction at the same time, it doesn’t mean all the land will be built on by the time you move in.  I’ve seen streets take more than 5 years to be completed.  Can you imagine having building noise from 6 a.m. to 6 or 7 p.m. often 6 days a week for 5 years?  You WILL pay more for the last or next to last vacant block of land in a street but you’ll be the one making the noise, not putting up with it.

I sold a number of homes on a street that had vacant land behind it.  I was told by Council Planners that 3 or 4 storey home units were approved for construction on the land.  Apart from the obvious future noise and dust from those activities, I concluded, from other information I received, that the land would remain vacant for some time.

What I didn’t see coming was an application for material change of use that was, despite howls of protest, approved.  Now those poor people have a shopping centre, commercial premises, warehouses, loading docks, trucks AND a six storey residential tower staring into their previously private back yards and swimming pools.

When faced with a large parcel of undeveloped land next door, do your research, hope for the best and plan for the worst.

Major Infrastructure.  Scout as many sources you can to find out about major infrastructure projects nearby.  Whilst the new or refurbished development may be several kilometres from you, the impact of heavy traffic, diversions, road closures and pollution may make your life Hell for years.  Here on the Gold Coast a major redevelopment of the Pacific Fair Shopping Centre is planned.  There are thousands of homes within a 5 kilometre or more radius that may be impacted by this period of intense activity.  If I owned in this area, I’d be off to the local Council to inspect plans to see how my property may be affected.  If it looks like a nightmare about to unfold, I’d be selling.

…to be continued…

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