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


Category Archives For: Design

The Secret Agent Report – Perceptions of Interiors

We have just released our latest Secret Agent report!

Think about that time you stepped into the modern, sleek room of a display home. You might have felt a little cold, unwelcome, like you didn’t want to dirty anything. Compare this to when you last visited your grandmother’s house. There was a sensed comfort and warmth from the moment you entered. There are times you feel at home in a friend’s house, yet other houses have you feeling more excited to go back to the comfort of your own home.

In this report, Secret Agent discusses how we perceive different kinds of room interiors. There isn’t a one size fits all rule, but our perceptions have potentially significant implications that should be considered by both buyers and vendors in property transactions.

Access the Perceptions of Interiors report now!

Cover image of The Secret Agent Report July 2017 issue, Perceptions of Interiors


Living and Working Under High Ceilings Promotes Creativity

Interior of a warehouse conversion living room with high ceilings, timber floorboards and exposed brick walls

11/109 Oxford St, Collingwood (realestate.com.au)

In real estate, high ceilings are a big selling point. “Soaring”, “towering”; these are common adjectives to describe anything above the average 2.7m ceiling. Besides being a rare feature in most properties, high ceilings are valuable also because of the psychological benefits to the people living or working under them.

High ceilings encourage us to think more freely, enhancing creative thinking.

A study conducted in Texas in 2007 found that 8-feet (2.4metre) ceilings activated confinement-related concepts, while taller 10-feet (3metre) ceilings encouraged better freedom-related tasks. In another experiment, participants in high-ceilinged rooms were able to create more abstract solutions than their low-ceilinged counterparts. Read the full post


Better Apartments: Room Depth

This week, we continue to explore the results of our Better Apartments Design Standards study.

One of the factors that had a very high pass rate was maximum room depth. However, given that this standard simply measured whether the depth of habitable space was less than a fixed value (1.5 times the ceiling height, or 9.7m if there is a rear kitchen, see Figure 1), this may not necessarily be a good thing. Smaller apartments are more likely to pass simply because if room dimensions are smaller, apartment depth will naturally be smaller too.

Read the full post


Better Apartments: Room Dimensions

As part of the Victorian Government’s Better Apartments Design Standards, three new rules were introduced for minimum room dimensions. These determine the minimum width and depth of main bedrooms, additional bedrooms as well as minimum size and dimension of living areas. For more detail, refer to our latest report. We sampled 3000 apartments built over the past 6 years in inner Melbourne.

Our research finds that if the new standards were already in place when the apartments were developed, only 7.7% (231 apartments) would have passed the minimum requirements for all three room dimension standards. Read the full post


The Secret Agent Report – Better Apartments: Before There Were Standards

We have just released our latest Secret Agent report!

This month, Secret Agent reviews the quality of apartments built in the last 6 years and compares them with Victoria’s new Better Apartments Design StandardsIf constructed today, how many of these apartments are actually compliant? In which criteria do we observe the highest fail rates?

Access the Better Apartments: Before There Were Standards report now!


Pools Add At Least $140,000 in Value to a House

Slim Aarons, Nice Pool, 1955

In the past few weeks, we’ve discussed the changing attitudes towards the amount of backyard inner city buyers prefer. We found that the ‘sweet spot’ in the ratio of internal space to land size for period terraces was between 1:0.3 to 1:0.47, however this was likely skewed by larger properties bought by the extremely wealthy. For this section of the market, the focus is on creating a dream sanctuary with the largest block size. Here, where space is no longer a luxury but a given, swimming pools are a common addition to backyards.

As Melbourne skinny dips in and out of summer’s hottest days, Secret Agent thought we’d revisit our research on these cool inner city retreats to find out the value created by having a pool in your house.  Read the full post


The Perfect Ratio of Period Terrace House to Land

Diagram showing the range of ideal land to indoor area ratio in attached and freestanding terraces including an increase in sale price.

Last month, Secret Agent investigated the ‘sweet spot’ in the density of a townhouse. We found that a total indoor area that equalled or slightly exceeded the land area (i.e. 1:1 – 1:1.27) sold at a higher price than denser developments. This time we decided to see what the data says about period homes.  Read the full post


In 2016, We Paid More for Older Apartments

Illustration showing that buyers paid 38 thousand dollars more for low-rise, older apartments in 2016 compared to newer apartments

This week, Secret Agent compares new and old apartments around inner Melbourne to see which were more valuable in 2016.

The sample included 1674 apartment sales across inner Melbourne’s suburbs and the CBD from January to December 2016. New apartments are those built from the 90s onwards, excluding any recent off-the-plan apartment sales. Old apartments include Art Deco units and flats located in 60s to 80s brick buildings. Read the full post


The Price of Better Designed Apartments

Illustration showing an A-grade apartment receiving adequate sunlight, having views outwards, cross-ventilation and sufficient private outdoor space.

How much more are we willing to pay for a cross ventilated, well-lit apartment with a balcony and open views?

In March this year, apartment design standards will be implemented into the Victorian planning system. Apartment design standards will ensure all future apartments in Victoria are desirable, safe, healthy and sustainable. New developments in Victoria will only be permitted a planning permit if they meet these standards. A 2015 community survey found that the top concerns of apartment amenity were “access to daylight, functional space, and natural ventilation”, as well as noise and energy efficiency. (DELWP, 2)

Standards have been made for 16 elements of design: Building setback, functional layout, room depth, windows, storage, noise impacts, energy efficiency, solar access to communal open space, natural ventilation, private open space, communal open space, landscaping, accessibility, building entry and circulation, waste and recycling, integrated water and storm water management.

It is logical to think that better design standards should produce apartments of a higher quality. This in turn should increase the sale price of these apartments. Secret Agent was engaged to determine the price premium of better designed apartments. That is, how much more are consumers willing to pay for an A grade apartment compared to a B grade and C grade apartment? Read the full post