Should I buy this townhouse with possible nearby construction?
December 2, 2019 12:49 AM   Subscribe

I am looking at buying a townhouse in the inner northern suburbs of Melbourne, Australia, currently up for auction in a couple weeks. However, I noticed that the neighbouring houses are for sale and are being marketed as a developer’s dream, as they already have architect plans and council permits to demolish and replace the buildings with seven new townhouses. Is this a major concern?

The property I'm interested in is an infill townhouse on a residential street, where the developer has knocked down an old house and built these townhouses in its place. I love everything about the up-for-sale townhouse, except for the possible subdivision and construction next door.

The neighbouring house on the same side of the street and the house next to that one were both put up for auction last week (the reserve price was not met). Those houses are old/shabby looking with big backyards. I'm not sure why the owner of next doors' properties didn't proceed with building their townhouses and is now selling. Apparently, the old houses are still livable, and may have tenants in them, so there's no guarantee they will be knocked down.

I have two main concerns, however, should the building plans come to fruition (and given how popular infill building is in this suburb, it's a distinct possibility). Firstly, there's construction noise and disturbance. I'm having a really hard time determining how bad that will be. In the townhouse currently for sale, one of the bedrooms faces the possible construction site and the second bedroom faces the other side away from the old houses. Maybe I could sleep and work in that second bedroom. I've looked up the Victoria state regulations and apparently, they're not allowed to start working until 7 AM. I think I can live with that, but I do work from home (mostly just solitary activities, though; also, I'm not particularly noise sensitive). However, if the noise of building a house is terribly loud, I will have to rethink that. Has anyone had any experience living next to a house construction site?

My second concern is whether the new build will reduce the value of my potential townhouse. At the moment, the courtyard of my townhouse faces the fence of the backyard of the closest adjoining house. Thus, it's relatively quiet and secluded. The new townhouses would most likely be built such that their windows would overlook the courtyard. However, here in Victoria, they have building restrictions that don't allow you to have windows at eye level which overlook a neighbour's backyard (the bottom half of the windows have to be frosted or the window should be placed such that it is above most people's heads). So, maybe that won't significantly detract from the value.

So, questions running through my head are what are the risks, are they too high, and if I do put in an offer/bid, should I adjust down the value down to account for the negatives of the nearby development (if so, I wonder by how much)?
posted by strekker to Work & Money (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
I lived next to a construction site in Canberra for a year. It was terrible. Sometimes the workmen left a radio on in the building site when they left for the day. They started right on 7, including weekends.

They were still building when I moved.

On the other hand, wherever you buy, you might end up with this situation. At least in this case you know what you are in for
posted by lollusc at 1:10 AM on December 2, 2019


Former Council employer here (though Sydney, not Melbourne).

You should contact Council and ask for a copy of the consent; within the bounds of legislation there is room for variance and this will list exact start/stop times and a myriad of other things as they pertain to that specific approval. You should also be able to talk to the Council planner who approved the plans. If the planner is helpful, they can talk you through a lot of this - what to expect, timelines, who to call if they're not following the rules, etc. If council and/or the planner is not helpful...well, that tells you something too.

You could (and should!) also ask to see the development file for the town house you're interested in. Firstly, you can check up on the building you might be buying (often your conveyancer does this, but there's nothing stopping you either). Secondly, it provides a reference point... How long did it take? Were there lots of complaints? Consent breaches? Etc. You might need to file under GIPAA, but this sort of request was about 70% of the information requests we got.
posted by jrobin276 at 1:30 AM on December 2, 2019 [3 favorites]


I would not assume that you can work from home (without being driven to distraction) while significant construction work is taking place next door. I moved into a newly built apartment when they were still putting up other new apartment blocks right next to my building for about a year. My rent was reduced by 10% for that year but I was not affected in any meaningful way because I was out of the house during the working day and they were only working Saturday morning. It turns out my building is also well insulated and I sleep deeply...

There was dust so I guess technically, I was affected by dirty windows but as I was only opening them to air the place out when I was home I didn't get a lot of dust inside. But judging by how annoying I find my neighbours' DIY on a Sunday afternoon trying to work from home during full on construction would have been deeply unpleasant.
posted by koahiatamadl at 2:42 AM on December 2, 2019


The upside of this would be that the property would appreciate after the construction is finished. Or, at least, it should. YMMV, of course.
posted by ivanthenotsoterrible at 3:21 AM on December 2, 2019


I would expect a over a year of construction noise (may take less time but better to over estimate). Given that you are buying an infill property, you can probably expect everything else to turn in to similar, so if these are the only/last houses left that haven't been redeveloped and you think you could live with the noise in the short term, then I would go ahead and buy. If, on the other hand, there's still scope for more construction think more carefully - it could well be the case that there's construction for several years as the whole block is built out and redeveloped.
posted by plonkee at 4:00 AM on December 2, 2019


So, the house I lived next door to was renovated (9 month project) and then when the retirement age owner couldn't find a tenant to rent it at a price that would support him he up and sold it. The new owners were there maybe six months, then decided to raise the building and close it in, requiring serious construction (down to heavy excavators, cranes, the works). Again, about nine months.

Just....it was pretty brutal. It starts with demolition and groundbreaking, then moves to active construction, people, machinery, fucking radios on all day competing with the equipment, the goddamn portaloo upwind from my living room, the complete loss of parking and access to the footpaths, the constant stream of total strangers a hair's breadth away all day every day. They're not supposed to start before seven but I promise you over time they get cracking at five to seven, then ten to seven, then half past six if it looks like rain....just push push push. For us we had to talk to the builder on the second round a few times because I've got small kids and a shift worker living with me and there's no universe in which a bobcat scraping up concrete at half past six in the morning is ever going to be acceptable.

If you move in you might want to have a quiet plan b for somewhere to work. The noise tends to be pretty intense during the early phases and if you're close enough and the work is intense enough you get vibrations too. It does tend to get quieter once they get to the fit out - plastering, electricals, plumbing - so you may only have work disturbing noise for half that.

I'd also try and look into the reputability of the company in question. Rather a lot of developers have gone belly up halfway through a project lately, so you'd want to know about that, and also if they have a reputation for fast construction or shoddy building. If it turns into a shitshow you could be looking at quite a bit longer than a year, in terms of overall disturbance.

Personally I wouldn't. If this is a popular suburb for infill, and there's a lot of likely sites for development, you may well wind up with years of this. I've only just moved, but were were until recently at Woolloongabba in Brisbane, and there have been dozens of high rise towers go up in the area over the last five or six years and it's had a really noticeable impact on my quality of life. I recall a few instances when they had to turn water off to the block for some reason, and when it did come back on it was brown for hours, and on once occasion they didn't bother to notify us and we had no water for about three hours, middle of summer. Good times. Lots of traffic and a shitshow with the parking, because when they want to pour concrete they'll just close off huge chunks of the street for the truck for a few days, and that's fine if it's one development, but when there's a cascade of six or seven of the fuckers all doing it the same week because the weather is good or whatever...it's a mess.

Anyway. Clearly I'm still bitter. If you really like this townhouse and you think you're resilient enough to live with a bit of drama and noise for a few years, then go for it. If you reckon you'll be there for a few years before moving up the property ladder, I'd try somewhere else.
posted by Jilder at 4:14 AM on December 2, 2019 [1 favorite]


If it’s literally next door it will be very very difficult to work from home (ask me how I know). Or maybe even park your car, or access your street or feel comfortable opening the blinds upstairs because you literally have scaffolding and workmen across from your window. I’ve had work going across from my house for 8 months now, and I had my neighbour on the other side rip up and replace her balcony.

This included three months of jackhammering a week after I bought a newborn home from the hospital. The jackhammering was a metre away from his bedroom. For three months. Talk about living hell! My neighbour just shrugged and said oh well, what can you do. And it’s true, you can’t do anything about it, this is just life in the city, which I accept. Hopefully she has a similar attitude when we renovate our house, which will take about a year. Because the thing is, one day you’ll be the person who needs to do it.
posted by Jubey at 2:31 PM on December 2, 2019


Thank you all for the feedback. I think I've been convinced not to pursue this place. The thing is I've heard not just one or two, but maybe four or five horror stories (and no one has been like, yeah, it was okay). Given that it could potentially ruin my workplace, probably better not to risk it.
posted by strekker at 3:33 PM on December 2, 2019


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