The latest happenings in the Melbourne property market. For our Essays and The Secret Agent Report, see our Research page.

Category Archives For: Architecture

Spanish Design

From Create By Secret Agent’s head designer, Julian Faelli

We have started to see a string of interesting architecture and design projects come out of Spain in the recent months. This trend is in spite of the countries economic woes, with Spain now battling a youth unemployment rate of 56.5%.

The struggling economy has pushed young architects and designers to make the best of a bad situation. With a rich architectural history exemplified in the work of Santiago Calatrava and Enric Miralles’s expressive buildings, there is fertile ground and a bold point of departure for today’s architects.

Niu Architectura

Niu Architectura is one such firm, their recent Calvià Running Track is an exercise in restrained yet exciting design. Simple materials used well – it is exciting to see such thorough it’s use of transparency and volume. The dramatic cantilevers and sunken spaces make this humble sports pavilion a real gem.

CSLS Arquitectes

The Girder House by CSLS Arquitectes is a whimsical and light approach to residential accommodation. A bright, white fitout provides a brilliant backdrop for life within the building. The small footprint is negotiated with a hidden kitchen and foldaway bed. It’s a approach that works well with the warm spanish climate, a climate not dissimilar to ours in Australia.

Johnston street has always been the traditional home of Spanish culture in Melbourne, and I wonder if it’s any coincidence AJAR has recently opened a furniture store on Johnston – primarily importing the Spanish Arlex brand. Designed and produced in Barcelona the quality is on par with the established Italian brands. At a competitive price point due to the depressed Euro, AJAR look like they are onto a winner. 


Project Images © José Hevia

Small Spaces – Big Ideas

New (and old) approaches to living in the inner city.

Kent Larson architect and director of MIT’s House_n research group presented at TED last year. He outlined his group’s design ideas to approach the worlds inner city population explosion, of which Melbourne is a participant.

The House_n groups proposals question the nature of what we build and how we occupy our spaces. The current glut of high rise apartment stock is at odds with the strong demand for other typologies of small housing near the city. This suggests that the current apartments offer isn’t attractive to people looking to enter the market.

Kent argues that the ideal model for small aparment living (view from 11 minutes in) is a open loft ‘shell’ containing basic building services, that the tenant can occupy and fit out according to their needs.

His lab is investigating sensor networks that will inform a adaptive and responsive architecture inside the apartment shell. Walls, partitions, joinery and lighting that move and alter. Accommodating radically different uses of the space throughout the week.One can’t help but think that this is a particularly ‘west coast’, overtly technical approach to the problem. A couple of Aussie architects have recently completed studio apartment fitouts with our lifestyle in mind. Architecture Architecture turned their hand to a fitout in the Cairo Apartments, located in the heart of Fitzroy. The 1930’s era 24sqm space is made neat and functional with a well designed joinery unit.




Last years Potts Point apartment fitout by Anthony Gill Architects, looks at another studio apartment under 40sqm. It manages to provide accommodation for young family, small child and their library within the tiny footprint.




In part it’s a return to old ways – both these projects inhabit apartment shells that were built in the past. These small studios with outlook, light, amenity and character look to be the way of the future as well.




Introducing Julian Faelli to the Secret Agent Team. Julian comes from a strong background in architecture, industrial design and project management. He is the head of our design and construction division: Create by Secret Agent.

Create By Secret Agent welcomes Julian Faelli


Introducing Create – Welcome Julian

Create is an entire new section of Secret Agent.  Spearheaded by Julian Faelli, the idea of Create is to transform property into spaces that adapt to the modern age.

Create can be utilised by existing clients of our buying services,  or even as a stand alone service.

Julian has a strong background in architecture,  as well as industrial design and project management.

Please excuse us while we update our website to include more details about Create services, and feel free to contact us at any time to discuss your requirements or ideas.

We look forward to helping our clients with beautiful design,  unlocking value,  project management and above all;  helping create the ideal space for you – to enable you to live life how you want to.

Collaborative Consumption

The last decade has brought about unprecedented change in the property sector. The severe rising of asset values, the limitations in building quality, the ageing demographics of “cashed up” baby boomers and the “always connected” ways of the internet.

In response to these changes, Secret Agent has refreshed its brand to meet these rising demands from the baby boomer population as well as todays web savvy/time poor consumer.

We want to give you an “inside perspective” to the way Secret Agent is reaching out to tomorrow’s consumer including the very exciting world of collaborative development.

What is collaborative development?

Collaborative development allows a group of property buyers to help acquire and fund a new development. The benefits are that each owner will be able to have a huge say in how the development will be built, the type of quality invested into the building right down to an individuals preference for how their allocated unit is fitted out.

These benefits would apply to owner occupiers and well as investors.

Sites such as The Point and Collaborative Consumption have shown collective action in other domains. The property frontier is next.

Collaborative development could be a huge drawcard especially to inner city downsizers that have been let down by new developments creating “mass” without the considerations to open space, greenery and low rise accommodation. In other words, its quality and a great place to live that are considered along with profit – rather than profit being the sole focal point.

Example: A concept Secret Agent prepared was a project titled “The Feynman” located near Melbourne Uni. These designs by Secret Agent would create an ideal living arrangement for the down sizer which would be hard to find if being built by a traditional development.

Collective action requires all participants to pre commit to the purchase of land and the development, then the project will to go ahead. Both owner occupiers and investors are welcome to join in.

Secret Agent works as a company because it finds products (houses) for its customers first, rather than customers for its products (traditional Real Estate path).

Feynman Plans

Images from the plans for The Feynman which include analysis of light to ensure that all apartments will receive adequate daylight.

The Value of Light

We’ve always known the importance of good natural light. Apart from the benefits of vitamin D on health, natural light just feels good. It helps make a home “feel good”. Natural light is instinctive to human nature, and the importance of natural light during winter comes at a premium – especially when one is trying to buy their home.

At Secret Agent, we’ve researched to determine whether a clear correlation could be established between average/median house prices and the orientation of the backyard. Our first hunch was that North facing backyards would yield higher prices. This is because a north facing backyard is generally the ideal orientation to capture full light. We have based our data on the quarter from 1st April to 30th June and have used Brunswick, Richmond and Hawthorn to help validate our hypothesis.

These suburbs proved to be excellent samples as they fulfilled the following criteria:

  • High turnover rate for the suburb.
  • Comprised mostly of consistent home type sales (Period Homes)
  • Located in the inner city.

In Hawthorn, West facing backyards had the highest selling prices followed closely by the North. The full Hawthorn statistics are to be released in Secret Agent’s upcoming “The Secret Agent Report” – our research guide. This report will have a Natural light index depending on the orientation of the property.


Further Observations

In both Brunswick and Richmond, backyards which have a North facing orientation had the highest average prices for the quarter.

Hawthorn had a higher average price for West facing backyards, with the North (backyards) as a very close second.

North facing backyards surprisingly also had the lowest $/sqm average of all orientations in Brunswick. We note that 6 sales changed hands that were located on busier streets which helped pull back the average $/sqm rate. We also noted that the block size (North facing backyards) were larger in general.

Average price for Brunswick: $725,414

North facing backyard average (Brunswick): $858,000

North facing backyards command a premium of 18.3% more

Average Price for Richmond: $951,029

North facing backyard average (Richmond): $1,105,750

North facing backyards cost 16.27% more

We note that suburbs such as Brunswick tend to have larger block sizes with regards to North and South orientations. Furthermore, single fronted sales were more prevalent with either a West or East facing rear orientation.

33 Rosslyn Street West Melbourne.

Big north facing windows allowed this property to have outstanding natural light. Our research suggests that the value in this property is not just about the amount of accommodation, style of property or location; elements such as light also add value to the property.

Vertical Space

We’ve noticed over the past 12 months a continued interest of property buyers to vertical space as opposed to floor area.

Vertical space creates a unique feel that is so often sought in Melbourne and throughout the country. The reasons are not just practical, a wide open property appeals to the biology of the everyday person. The feeling is being free, as opposed to many new apartment buildings that have ceiling heights around

2.4m, and more of a cramped feel. In the case studies we refer to 3 different properties and the marvellous feel attached to each place. All have the benefits of expansive height and all command a premium price as a result.

It would be a super idea to work out not the average per square metre rate, but the average cubic metre rate for many dwellings. That would give a more realistic idea as to the “real space” available, and incentivise many new developers to opening up their spaces during construction.


33 Canning St North Melbourne
A ceiling height of 4.7m exists in this property which is absolutely staggering. Compared to the average new build in Victoria being only 2.4m. 33 Canning Street is almost twice the height!


54a Eastment Street Northcote
Large open warehouse shell. Sold on the weekend for $707k with 5 bidders. Only 150sqm internally, however the internal space could be used to create three floors.


1/40 James St Northcote
Part of an old church. The property has more height than the actual width of the floorplan.


Warming Up The Nest

From the team at Apple that brought you the iPod and the iPhone comes the latest innovation to astound the technology world:

A thermostat!

(Wait, did he say a thermo…)

Yes, a thermostat!

Looking at The Nest Learning Thermostat (NLT for short), I initially wondered why I should even look into what seemed like another iteration of a common household appliance.

Then, they blew me away.

The Nest website really does explain everything to you in a nutshell: their new thermostat is a nifty piece of AI, learning what temperatures are your favourite (over a week, needing this ‘training’ seasonally), when you are out of the house and even what time you wake up so it can switch itself on.

What is fascinating is that the NLT functions using Nest Sense, so when you are out it switches itself off or adjusts to save energy consumption in the house (unlike traditional ones, or the new fangled ones which are impossible to use), of which 50% comes from that small thermostat stuck on your wall (fridges apparently only take up a measly 8% in comparison, go figure). It even has adjusted controls to allow for accelerated or decelerated heating/cooling and the Nest Leaf energy saver indicator can in turn educate you on how to best save energy, since a one degree change in temperature can save up to 5% on your energy bill if implemented in the long run!

Like the famous iProducts, Nest founders Tony Fadell and Matt Rogers have designed the NLT to be avant-garde not only in it’s software but with it’s hardware too, with a ‘chameleon design (that) blends into any wall (by) reflect(ing) any colour’. And what is a new device from the team that brought you the iPod and iPhone without an app to control it remotely?

With the claims on climate change finally ‘substantiated’ in only the more recent years, the world has suddenly gone into a green kick, especially in Australia where Aussie households now have to foot a carbon tax, whether or not you support it. The Nest Team posit that, if ‘taught’ properly, the NLT could save you $173 off your energy bill per annum, which means the tech will effectively ‘pay for itself’ in 17 months.

The NLT: A slice of the future in green technology today, not only saving money but the planet as well as by reducing your carbon footprint, all whilst looking good at the same time. And for all you Melbournians, it should provide a nice, constant micro-climate to come home to, no matter the weather outside.


(For further information, please check out the following videos or the Nest website at Secret Agent is not affiliated or paid to endorse the NLT and only gives it’s fair and honest opinion)

The Green Movement

The next big development push looming is green living.  Green living will become a selling point for many new projects in the pipeline as a way to attract buying interest.

With the carbon tax a constant and likely issue until the next election,  it seems everyone is thinking about green.

Some examples can be found here

China’s Ghost Cities

China’s Ghost Cites;  the problem of growing to quickly

What should be of concern to us,  is the Chinese property market.

For years the market has grown at an unbelievable pace with huge gains being recorded.  The problem

for government officials is that they have had to build entire cities and hope that people will move there.

This has been a success in many instances,  yet in a changing of the times –  some cities are struggling to attract people to them.  Many speculator investors have bought up big in these new cities,  and many are facing potential collapse.

Is China in one big property bubble?  Dateline has a fantastic documentary on this subject  that is worth 20 mins of your time.