Older homes often have features that buyers in Sydney crave, but these properties can also present practical challenges. In some cases, renovators may need to consider extensive refurbishment and even partial demolition, but these projects could fall foul of planning regulations for certain properties. Learn more about heritage-listed properties in Sydney, and find out how this status could halt or enhance your renovation plans.

Heritage listings in New South Wales

The New South Wales Office of Environment and Heritage aims to protect places and objects that are of significance to the state. The State Heritage Register lists these properties, which are either in public or private ownership. If you own a property on the State Heritage Register, you'll need approval from the Heritage Council to make any changes to the property. Any renovation must meet strict requirements that guarantee the property will stay true to its original design and finish.

There is also a second form of heritage protection in New South Wales. Local Environmental Plans (or LEPs) are important to the local area, and all local councils must identify places and items of local heritage significance on a special schedule in their LEP. Again, you must apply to the council to renovate and/or make changes to these properties.

Your home could also appear on other registers that list properties of some cultural significance. For example, the National Trust maintains a list of properties like this. Although this register does not afford any legal protection, planning requests for renovation works are generally subject to a lot of scrutiny.

Effective ways to renovate a heritage property

While you may not have free reign to renovate a heritage property as you would like, you shouldn't assume that planning regulations will stop you in your tracks. Planners understand that lifestyles are now somewhat different to the way Australian lived 80-100 years ago, so certain changes are certainly possible.

You should generally contact your local planning office as a first step in your project plans. A planning expert can help you understand the constraints that may apply to your building. He or she can also give you advice about how to adapt your plans. For example, you may want to shift the bathroom from one part of the house to another. An experienced planner can help you find an alternative that won't fall foul of planning regulations.

Architects and renovation experts can also help you understand how to renovate the property sympathetically. For example, many older properties in NSW have an ornate filigree or cast iron veranda to protect the occupants from the sun. It's highly unlikely that a council or state planner will allow you to remove this from a heritage property, so it's worth getting expert advice about how to tastefully renovate this type of feature.

Why heritage properties are good news for renovators

With such strict planning controls, you may wonder why so many people buy and renovate these historical homes, when a newer property will allow you to do what you like. In fact, there are many positives to remember when you decide to renovate a heritage house.

Owners can rest assured that new developments will not overshadow or impinge on their property. Neighbouring properties must adhere to the same rules, so you can stay confident that a new block of apartments won't spring up next door straight after you spend a fortune renovating your property.

A listing also gives you access to services that other renovators don't have. For example, free heritage advisory services may be available to heritage property owners that can help shape and steer your renovation project.

For substantial renovation projects, you may become eligible for state or council funding to support the work. Owners can apply for heritage grants and loan to fund the work they need to complete. Heritage properties are also often subject to land tax, stamp duty and local rate concessions. As such, if you decide to sell on a renovated property, you may not need to pay as much in tax as a conventional buyer. With property prices in Sydney reaching record heights, a heritage home could become a valuable investment.

Heritage properties in Sydney are subject to strict planning regulations. Talk to a home renovations expert for more information and advice about the options available to you.