‘Mullet houses’ transform Melbourne’s heritage streets behind closed doors

It’s well and truly the party behind for many of Melbourne’s streets, which change drastically behind closed doors as period facades hide incredible extensions.

Melbourne’s heritage streets change dramatically behind closed doors as period facades hide incredible extensions and renovations.

Mules aren’t just all the rage on football pitches and schoolyards, as ‘mule houses’ are becoming the norm in Victoria’s rapidly transforming inner and middle suburbs, where local rules ensure the maintaining the character of the streets.

But it’s well and truly a party in the backyard, with passionate Boroondara renovators spending the most in Victoria to renovate their homes since July last year, spending more than $200million in total.

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New figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) show owners of Boroondara shelled out $244,024,163 between July 2021 and April 2022 – the most of any Victorian local government area.

The area has a median home price of $2.5 million, up 12.2% from June of last year, according to PropTrack data.

Stonnington came second in total spending at $235,855,715 and has a median house price of $2.372 million, while the Mornington Peninsula rounds out the top three with around $226 million in work and a median price. real estate of $1.25 million in June.

ABS data includes building approvals for any major renovations, which it classifies as alterations and additions, including conversions.

Not all renovations undertaken require council or county approval.

The data comes as industry experts say the renovation boom caused by the coronavirus has now waned, with buyers opting for homes that have already been renovated.

Altlas Architects co-founder Aaron Neighbor said this was due to rising material costs and rising interest rates.

“Up until 12 months ago we were doing a bunch of renovations and I think with the HomeBuilder program… there was definitely that incentive,” Neighbor said.

“At the moment we are seeing prices have inflated over time (from design to getting council or construction approval).

“It tends to be quite expensive and a lot of people find they have to re-evaluate their project.”

But Mr Neighbor said customers with “more savings”, those who were older or renovating their homes forever, continued with their plans.

“It’s the younger people who are trying to renovate on the cheap or one of their primary or secondary residences, they’re the ones who might struggle with the cost,” he said.

A typical project, or “makeover” – including a new kitchen, bathrooms, extension and a renovated facade – costs at least $700,000, he added.

The buyer’s lawyer, Nicole Jacobs, agreed that properties with an A-grade renovation were popular.

She said “mule houses” – houses with an older or quirky front and a new extension at the back – have become a particular favourite.

“For homes with heritage overlays, many councils allow an extension to the rear as long as it resembles a different era to the front,” Ms Jacobs said.

“A lot of people appreciate the (original) architecture and put a modern background on it to meet today’s standard of living.”

She said that involved making sure the house was eco-friendly and “captured the sun and the northern light”.

These mule-style homes are on the rise in affluent Melbourne suburbs such as Hawthorn, where 7 Kent St is on the market for $1.8-1.98 million.

The house was built in 1900 and its frontage holds heritage status, making it harder for sellers Kyle and Emma Parker to get council renovation approval.

“I think more people tend to go for established, completed properties because it can add six to 12 months to get approval for older heritage properties,” said Mr Parker, who is also a builder.

The couple bought the home in its original condition in 2015 for $952,000, according to CoreLogic.

Mr. Parker then undertook an extensive renovation project, adding an underground glass-covered wine cellar and tearing up the backyard and rear of the house, leaving behind the heritage facade and two original bedrooms.

The Parkers have lived in the stylish pad ever since with their three children, Elle, 4, Bobby, 3, and Hugo, 1.

“I’ve done a few renovations like this for other clients – they’re very popular,” Mr Parker said.

The family are now moving on to another Victorian, which they also plan to turn into a ‘mule’.

Belle Property Balwyn’s senior manager and auctioneer Toby Parker reiterated that buyers were increasingly concerned about renovation costs.

“Anything that’s finished and done, people don’t have that unknown factor that comes with planning and permits,” he said.

Despite this, Mr Parker said many young couples and downtrodden people were still on the hunt for mules, as they were looking for a home with “more character” and a “mix of old and new”.

He added that these types of extensions could cost upwards of $1 million.

– additional reporting by Alanah Frost

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Originally published as ‘Mullet houses’, transform Melbourne’s heritage streets behind closed doors

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