Owning a townhouse has become the new Aussie dream. That’s according to social demographer Mark McCrindle, of McCrindle Research, who says rising property prices have forced many first-home buyers to adjust their expectations of buying that home with a white picket fence on a quarter-acre block.
“The townhouse option is meeting the needs of Australians not only in the suburbs of our large capitals, but across our cities in regional areas,” says McCrindle.
“Townhouses are becoming more and more popular because architects are replicating the life of a detached home into a more efficient space. People still get to have their barbecues and enjoy a bit of greenery and garden area and some townhouses even have that white picket fence, too.” McCrindle says the demographic analysis of Census data shows there has been a huge increase in townhouse living which – like apartments – appeals to two ends of the age spectrum: downsizing baby boomers and young couples and families. He says the architectural design of today’s terraces and townhouses also means they have modular flexibility to accommodate the different life stages of modern householders.
“The build quality of today’s townhouses makes them very appealing to everyone from young families to downsizers who all want to be closer to the action,” he explains.
“Whereas previous generations were about owning and accumulating and having lots of storage and a garage filled with ‘stuff’, life today is about the journey and experiences and the townhouse helps facilitate that goal because it means you are buying into a better location than you could otherwise afford.” McCrindle’s research found that townhouse living has increased by one-third since 2011, as 12.7 per cent of Australians now call a townhouse home. He points out that townhouses are most often built in inner-ring suburbs.
“If you look at where townhouse construction is taking place, it’s in suburbs like Alexandria. The location is positive as it’s closer to the employment hubs and transport connections in what we call ‘walkable communities’. The location of these communities is unbeatable,” McCrindle says.
“I’m not talking about the kind of terraces and townhouses of old. I’m talking about townhouses that have paved courtyards, plunge pools, extended verandas, open living areas and rooftop gardens.”
George Redmond, 32, and partner David Belcher, 32, spent two years searching for a detached dwelling in the eastern suburbs before they revised their hopes of buying a detached home and settled on a townhouse. Redmond, co-owner of public relations agency, Wasamedia, and Belcher, a senior manager at Hays Recruitment, says while they were willing to compromise on the size of their first home, they had fixed ideas about its location and aspect.
“When we started looking at townhouses we realised how much we liked them. Our criteria was simple: we wanted to remain in the eastern suburbs, have an open-plan layout and a backyard with a north-facing aspect,” Redmond says.
“When we found a townhouse in Queen’s Park we fell in love with it. It’s an old terrace that has been newly renovated and the layout works really well. As it turns out, a townhouse is perfect for our lifestyle. My partner and I both grew up in big houses – he’s from London, I’m from New Zealand – but the weather is so good in Sydney that we are always outside. Centennial Park is our front yard and we go to Bronte Beach all the time and the proximity to the beaches, CBD and parks is a big drawcard.” The couple, who have a one-year-old daughter, Evie, agree one of the benefits of buying a smaller townhouse or terrace is they could afford to spend more on quality furniture and fittings. Redmond says another upside is the reduced maintenance, allowing for more quality family time.
“We chose a terrace over an apartment because we feel like we have our own bit of land. Buying a terrace means we have the benefit of living in a desirable location with all the benefits of freestanding house but without the huge expense,” she says.
SJB associate and architect Sevda Cetin agrees that the look and feel of townhouses in 2017 has broadened their appeal to an increasing number of buyers. The award-winning architectural firm is behind The Gentry, a new development in Alexandria that has transformed heritage-listed warehouses into 37 luxe townhouses. Cetin says The Gentry is a nod to the gentrification of the suburb and will cater to a growing demand for larger, more luxurious townhouses.
“Townhouses are very current and very appealing to those who are looking to live within the city in a dwelling that has a very private feel,” says Cetin.
“The buyers of these contemporary townhouses will know they are getting value. There is an ever-increasing number of buyers who want something that is architecturally significant and will enhance their lifestyle.”
To the casual passer-by, Cetin says the changes to the beautiful William St development with the bowed facade will be subtle. But the growing appetite for larger and more luxurious private dwellings means SJB’s adaptive reuse of the building will see it fitted out with high-end amenities that celebrate today’s townhouse aesthetic.
“Today’s townhouse is always about the openness of plan. The SJB philosophy is that it has to appeal to the street and to the internal courtyard that is at the rear of each dwelling,” she says.
“The current warehouses once housed a factory making ballerina shoes. It’s a heritage warehouse building and so we will be maintaining the facade and building behind that existing exterior.”
Cetin believes buyers’ growing interest in townhouses is due to the fact they provide a degree of privacy not available in an apartment. She also attributes the rise in demand to more families appreciating proximity to the CBD and the sense of community that comes with high-density living.
“It used to be couples that were drawn to the inner-urban suburbs, but now it’s growing families who want to buy into an area but cannot afford a freestanding home,” she says.
“The benefits of buying a spacious townhouse in a great location with its own private courtyard is that as well as being part of a growing hub, there is a feeling of cosiness when you close the door.”