Dual Occupancy Has Many Advantages, Many Not Obvious
Updated: Sep 14
Why we love dual occupancy as the modern solution
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.
Location is a major factor in property decision making, and most people know that location is by far the biggest determinant of property prices.
At a basic level, location is about geography and proximity. Typically, we want to be near the water, but not far from the city centre. Alternatively, we might be attracted to older, more established areas with more space and relatively large blocks and homes, where being located far from the city offers a sort of refuge, a retreat.
But geography and proximity are only part of what is important about location. The other big factor that is overlayed on location is demography. Every location is characterised by the population that lives there. It’s not just birds of a feather that flock together, people do too.
Today, many professionals, such as planners and marketers, use geodemographic mapping to inform their plans. Census data tells us that factors such as educational attainment, occupation, income, cultural background, family type, and many other variables, combine to give neighbourhoods their distinct characteristics.
So often part of what attracts us to an area is the sense we have of its demographic characteristics. And that is why it is an important factor when talking about dual occupancy. In short, dual occupancy allows us to live in the areas we find most appealing, in a way that is affordable and is in keeping with important contemporary lifestyle trends. So, let’s unpack this a bit.
No one dreams of the ¼-acre block anymore
Perhaps the biggest lifestyle change that has taken place in generational terms is that Australia has moved from a traditional suburban way of living, with so much centred on the home, the backyard, and the neighbourhood, to a much more cosmopolitan way of living, where we make more of living in the city, in everything from cafes and boutiques, to parks and beaches.
We also travel much more both domestically and internationally. The ¼-acre suburban block and the maintenance it requires hinder more modern lifestyles. And that is essentially why the ¼-acre block has effectively been abandoned by younger middle-class Australians.
While many are simply opting for apartment living, and sacrificing floorspace for location, some more discerning families are increasingly seeing the advantages of dual occupancy, where generous floorspace is achieved and so many other downsides of apartments, like noise and strata management, are avoided altogether.
For many, dual occupancy is a dream come true
Dual occupancies are a very different proposition to the ¼ acre block, and the main difference is the financial aspects of the land and the building. Yes, you get to live in a new home, in an area you like, but you have an investment working for you too. The second home can be rented or sold and that will typically return a profit on the overall development.
If you take the perspective of a valuer, you are effectively halving the cost of the land that is being purchased, so it is a significantly different financial formula you get to play with.
And, for many, these financial advantages can be put to work to assist and enable other family members. So, it is worth keeping in mind that as much as there are advantages in terms of location and state-of-the art design, the financials stack up very well too. Indeed, this type of development wouldn’t be as popular as it is if that were not the case.
Just add aesthetics
Accompanying the cosmopolitan trend has been a growing appreciation of the aesthetic. As our society has grown wealthier, we have come to experience more of the creative arts. We see more art and design around us, we appreciate what it adds to public life and we increasingly value intelligent, beautiful design in our homes.
Since every dual occupancy is a fresh canvas, the opportunity to be involved in the design and consider the aesthetic values of the building are substantial. Being intimately involved in a process that is dedicated to bringing a bespoke design to life is a highly engaging and rewarding experience.
Moreover, the design process is bespoke for one simple reason – it is for your unique family, your family’s make-up, interests and lifestyle value. If you are big readers and have dreamt of a library, you can have a library. If you have a budding concert pianist in your tribe, you might want a space for a baby grand. For most people, this bespoke project is the ultimate family home, so it’s nice to know you can have it come to life exactly as you imagine.
The aesthetic experience doesn’t stop with the final plan. In our case, our founding member is an architect and architectural values underpin our whole business model. Intelligent, beautiful design, brought to life through quality construction techniques by master craftspeople, is in our DNA.
Being involved in the process is fun
People find an unexpected thrill in seeing master craftspeople at work. People don’t expect to find a thrill in learning why a certain timber is used for a particular application or realising how different colour combinations and textures in tiles can dramatically change the feel of a room. For most people, the design and build process is a once in a lifetime experience and provided it all goes well, it is one that they will cherish forever.
The experience starts with site selection. As you can probably imagine, there is more to it than just block size. Location is vital, and in this case, we’re assessing aspect from the perspective of two properties co-located on the site, so aspect must be able to work for both of them.
Site selection also includes assessing the surrounding neighbourhood, the streetscape, and overall local amenities. New dual occupancy residences must add to the streetscape and be welcomed in the neighbourhood – another reason why experienced designers should be involved.
What make a site work for a dual occupancy?
There is a financial aspect to site selection too, and we have revised the adage that recommends buying ‘the worst house in the best street’ to buy ‘the worst house on the best block in the best street’. One of the challenges of the dual occupancy process is that we are essentially only interested in the land, so we want to limit, as far as possible, paying for a home that will be demolished.
Of course, the costs of site acquisition are factored into the overall equation driving dual occupancy projects, and we have come to understand this equation intuitively, having seen the patterns play out time and time again. It is somewhat of an intangible, but when we find the right site there is instant confidence that we can make it work well, that we can add value to the site.
There are some very basic factors that go into site selection, starting with the street frontage being wide enough to accommodate this type of development. We’ve mentioned aspect earlier, but it is key, and a north-facing rear is a “must have.” Then things get subtler, with consideration being given to the property’s easements, limitations on set-backs, what is possible with driveways, and taking into account neighbouring buildings. There is a lot to consider, but it can be done in a careful, methodical manner, and past experience helps a great deal.
Our clients invariably come to the end of the process having made a series of intelligent investment decisions. We think an important part of our role is being able to inform those investment decisions, advising on ROI implications every step of the way. There are advantages to be gained, and we have the experience and know-how to realise them.
As an approach to property, dual occupancy is in a class of its own. In essence, it is a collaborative endeavour. We want to deal with clients who have a vision and understand how to make intelligent choices. For our part, we offer a fully integrated suite of services, from site selection to design development, through to managing delivery with a team of experts across a host of specialist trades, they are people we know well and work with frequently. In our business, we don’t have a B-team, only an A-team, and we like it that way.