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17 August 2018

Buying a house: Sydney home buyers look for Spring bargains

YDNEY’S inner west is one of the epicentres of the downturn in property values but it’s also a precinct unmatched in the diversity of its bricks and mortar.

Rare properties abound — converted corner stores, warehouses, ­period houses and apartments — and after a lull over the first two months of winter, agents report a spike in the number of buyers at open homes as they recognise the spring opportunities available.

One of the most unusual in the inner west is the heritage-listed Balmain home of musician Gretta Sculthorp, 84, which looks like a moneybox from the street.

Gretta Sculthorp Balmain Home

Gretta Sculthorp with Dr Graham Pont on the top balcony of 54 Birchgrove Rd, Balmain. Picture: Toby Zerna

“Lilywill” was built in 1905 at 54 Birchgrove Rd by a Neil McIntosh, who lived in the house opposite with his 50-year-old daughter, who died after smoking a poisonous cigar.

“The more we hear about this case, the more mysterious it becomes. lt is a case of poisoning either by herself or by someone else,” the coroner report­edly said in 1909.

Ms Sculthorp bought Lilywill more than 40 years ago for $52,000 after responding to an advertisement for “a fascinating house” in Balmain.

Gretta Sculthorp Balmain Home

Gretta Sculthorp peers out the side window of the charming and unsual Balmain home. Picture: Toby Zerna

“It was a hot day and when the door opened a fresh gust of wind came through — I said ‘I’ll take it’,” she said. When it was originally built it was known as The Wedge, because of its triangular shape, and there are balconies on two of the three levels, with views of the harbour.

Philosopher Dr Graham Pont moved in with Ms Sculthorp in 2002. “A neighbour in her 90s remembers Lilywill was a brothel, then a dance hall and another neighbour studied the piano here,” he said.

The pair were famous for their parties. “We’d invite 20 musicians and warn all the neighbours,” Ms Scul­thorp said.

McGrath agent Cindy Kennedy expects the unique charm of the property, which has a $2.1 million price guide ahead of the September 8 auction, will have a wide appeal.

Gretta Sculthorp Balmain Home

Ms Sculthorp knew she had to buy it the minute the front door opened. Picture: Toby Zerna

“It’s in Balmain that I find the most unusual real estate crops up and occ­asionally — not often — something a bit like this, but it’s truly unique,” she said. “Buyers have been hibernating, but we’re getting quadruple the number of people through our open homes than we were just a few weeks ago.” She said the price guide for Lilywill is about 10 per cent less than what it might have been a year ago.

“The lucky buyers have got a great choice, the lowest interest rates forever and the best time to purchase since 2011,” Ms Kennedy said.

Gretta Sculthorp Balmain Home

One of the bedrooms at 54 Birchgrove Rd. Picture: Toby Zerna

“It’s a bit like the post GFC-period, where some homes are selling  for  less  than  what  the ­owners paid.”

A house in Nelson St, Rozelle, sold for $1.488 million on July 6, $82,000 less than what the owners paid at the peak of the boom in September 2016.

In Balmain, a four-bedroom house in Harris St sold for $2.45 million on May 26, $350,000 less than the $2.8 million paid in December 2016.

An apartment in the Eve development in Eve St, Erskineville, is selling for $1.06 million, $40,000 less than $1.1m the owners had paid off the plan. A renovated five-bedroom Marrickville home sold for $1.96 million, $240,000 short of the reserve.


“We are converting this large former industrial precinct into an engaging and inclusive residential community that will ultimately become home to some 3000 residents,” he said.

“It’s great to see projects like this coming to life.”
Launch of Park Sydney in Erskineville.

It will be home to around 3000 residents.

With construction on Park Sydney beginning and the WestConnex project ongoing, the inner west is a hive of activity on the development front.

Erskineville has undergone large changes over the past few years, with house prices increasing by 67.2 per cent in the last 12 months, according to CoreLogic data.