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Dual Occupancy Has Many Advantages,
Many Not Obvious
They say the two things you can’t change about a property are location and aspect. These two features are even more important once we start thinking about dual occupancy.
In fact, there are several important factors to consider, and mistakes to avoid when thinking about whether or not to build a dual occupancy. So, we have put together this guide to help answer the most common questions people have.
First up, what exactly is a dual occupancy?
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In short, a dual occupancy is two buildings on the same block. These days it is usual for them to share one common wall, but they can be separate buildings. They might both have street frontage, or one may sit behind the other, depending on the shape of the block.
There are several big reasons why dual occupancies have become so popular. Firstly, they provide a way to live in an area that might otherwise be outside your budget, and location is a major driver of all property decisions.
For many people, the desire to be in the locations they find attractive will outweigh any other consideration, and so people can often settle for a poor-quality property in order to be in the location they love. Dual occupancy changes that, as a high-quality property can be built by leveraging the real potential of the land.
Next, dual occupancies make sound financial sense, by allowing you to optimise the value of the land, effectively building two properties on land that would historically only been valued for one.
Moreover, the second property can be treated in many ways; you can hold it and derive a rental income; you can sell it and make a profit; or you can even use it to accommodate an extended family, without living on top of one another.
How does good design add value to a
The real secret to successful dual occupancy properties lies in the design. The first thing clients will want is to work with a builder that has a proven design capability and, most importantly, a one that has a track-record producing intelligent, practical designs for this special type of property.
The design must be good for both of the homes on the block, and so that requires careful consideration of the block’s aspect and how the site will be used to the optimal value.
The design must also be aesthetically pleasing, balancing function and feel. Today. Good design endeavours to be both modern and timeless, which is why we often see classical features working well with modern floorplans and family uses.
Above all, the designer must be a master of space yet have a clear understanding of the buildability issues that designs must overcome to ensure a value-for-money solution is going to be achieved.
When it comes to dual occupancy, what do councils care most about?
The truth is, there is no one thing, as the perspective and interests of local councils vary from place to place.
Some councils are very encouraging of dual occupancies, while others are more reluctant, sometimes bordering on obstructive. So, again, it helps to have plenty of experience on your side. You need builders who understand the differences between councils, what their priorities and gripes are, and what you need to do to ensure your approvals sail through the application process as smoothly as possible.
Dealing with the council can be frustrating, time-consuming and expensive, especially if you need to make design revisions. And this starts with site selection.
There are some sites, that no matter how ingenious your design might be, the council will never approve redevelopment as a dual occupancy. For example, a 12m is pretty much the minimum width, or frontage, required for dual occupancy. This allows for two driveway crossovers and, in most cases, will still allow for one on-street car space.
Most councils will be reasonable and helpful if they can see that you have a team that knows what it is doing, a team that understands that particular council’s values and preferences. Typically, this means understanding the key heritage issues the council cares about, demonstrating that your design has been developed to not just fit in with, but enhance the streetscape and sense of neighbourhood, which obviously means the immediate neighbours are of high concern to council and should be too to you and your design team.
There are also the various technical issues that must be right, and any snag, no matter how tiny, can cause delays in approvals. That means things like easements, setbacks, overhangs, driveway crossovers, and so on, all need to be done by the book for that particular council.
Dealing with council can be a nightmare for the novice, but it’s second nature for specialist builders.
How long does construction take for a dual occupancy?
Unfortunately, this is a ‘how long is a piece of string’ question. There is no simple answer. But, there are steps you can take to ensure the build time is compressed as possible.
Apart for the weather – which everyone talks about but can do nothing about – the other big variable is getting approvals through council. And, because we’re effectively talking about two properties, it is not as straightforward a process as it is for a single dwelling. That said, an expert builder knows how to streamline the process and limit the risk approvals will get snagged or delayed.
The best advice for clients, if they want to ensure timely construction, is to start talking to your preferred builder early.
Do dual occupancies represent value-for-money?
Last but not least, a hard nose and a sharp pencil are required to make sure any planned project will make sound financial sense.
Dual occupancy properties can, and mostly do, represent great value-for-money. If they are done right. The biggest upside how you capitalise on the value of the land, which, in simple terms, can be thought of as a two for one deal.
Depending on what you choose to do with the second property there can be other financial advantages. For example, if you hold the second property as an investment you will obtain generous depreciation offsets on what is a relatively low maintenance property.
Beyond the straight economic advantages, other factors also have a value and these need to be part of the overall equation, such as:
How valuable is it to you to be living in an area you love?
How important is it to you to have your elderly parent(s) living in close proximity?
What price do you put on having a home designed with your specific family, and its wants and needs, in mind?
We can’t give a financial answer to these questions, but we all know they do have a value, and so they should be part of your thinking and decision making.
One thing that really helps is seeing. Seeing good examples of the type of property you might have in mind. Or, be even more open-minded and start by exploring the range of possibilities that can be realised. That is as easy as a coffee conversation with an expert builder.