Land, land, land – and big blocks of land at that. In WA I feel like we’ve always been obsessed with land size. And for decades I think we’ve been subconsciously schooled in the traditional way of thinking, which is to believe that you should seek a bigger block of land whenever you can.
But what if bigger ISN’T always better? I think we are finally experiencing a real shift in the way we think about land size. What if an 800sqm block WASN’T the best fit for you and your lifestyle? What if a small block was much better?
When we bought the Crap Shack, I remember one of the features we found so enamouring about it was the land size (more than 700sqm). Compared to the much smaller plots of land and gardens that I’d been looking at in my price range, the bigger parcel of land seemed to present so much freedom.
But now, I’ve come to the realisation that if we ever sold this house and were to buy a house again, I would probably actually go for a smaller block (and a more easy-to-maintain garden). Yes, even with a busy toddler now in tow (not to mention our sheepdog cross who needs her daily runs) I would still consider going smaller.
When beautiful new concept in living, Innovo Ellenbrook, reached out to see if we could partner together on a post, the first thing I thought was that we should share something on the advantages of smaller blocks. And why – if you’re house-hunting – thinking about what you need in a home, not what we’ve been told to think about land size, is of primary importance. Thanks to Ellenbrook project manager Megan Buckland for chatting to me about all the advantages of small block living for a modern lifestyle.
A smaller block means less of a garden to look after.
Sure, no regrets… but when I bought this house on its 700sqm block, I definitely underestimated my capacity and time for gardening (even though I actually really enjoy gardening). I also had no idea that while my then-boyfriend, now-husband is always more than happy to mow the lawn or get his chainsaw out to prune our trees and make up mulch, he flat-out refuses to weed, put in new plants or look after the veggie patch. It seems like as soon as I’ve tidied one corner of the garden, another has fallen into a tangled jungle.
Now with our family consisting of a two-year-old, two working parents and an active dog who needs her daily (if not twice-daily) exercise, time for gardening doesn’t come around as often. Although I do love our place, when life is a little hectic and the house and garden is a mess I do often think how nice it would be to live somewhere that involved less maintenance, and more drinking coffee in cafes three minutes away.
Even things like cleaning off all the endless spiderwebs that seem to grow overnight on our sunroom windows takes a lot of time. A bigger place = a bigger amount of work.
Megan says smaller lots are perfect for people who want a low maintenance option that is not an apartment or strata titled property. “The key with smaller lots or terrace homes is also having them in a location where people can still have access to outdoor spaces – but without the maintenance,” she says. “The Innovo homes for example are right opposite a gorgeous park. They are on green title lots and offer plenty of space without a large land component so are a great alternative to apartment living without the common property or strata fees.”
Smaller blocks are the best for Perth when it comes to decreasing urban sprawl.
Megan is passionate about thinking of things that can be implemented to decrease our city’s urban sprawl. “Smaller blocks make perfect sense,” she says. “When you can fit the same amount of living area and outdoor area as on a block twice the size, then it makes sense to look at creating clever designs that deliver the same amenity. It also reflects the lifestyle in which we live today. We are busier, we are on the move and we choose to live life. This means less time cleaning, mowing, vacuuming and more time entertaining at home, going out for breakfast or meeting friends for dinner. These smaller lots allow a seamless transition to the life we want to live today.”
Sounds so obvious when you think about it but it’s something fewer of us consider when house hunting in Perth. A smaller home can mean you use less natural resources – less heating bills, lower electricity bills, no large expanses of lawn to water – meaning lower bills, says Megan. “There are big advantages around ongoing running costs of smaller homes,” she says. “For example, the lower longer term costs and time associated with smaller lots such as heating/cooling, water for gardens and landscape maintenance is appealing and allows people to spend their money on other things such as travel, eating out or just relaxing with friends and family.” (Coming from a couple where our salaries frequently seem to go on repairing the house and keeping it looking good, I see the allure for sure).
We are working more than ever before.
Small modern blocks in good locations can be a better choice for busy modern lifestyles, with people today also working far longer hours than we did before, says Megan. “So having a home that you don’t have to spend all weekend cleaning or all weekend mowing the lawns and looking after an extensive garden space really appeals to people,” says Megan. “The great thing about Innovo is people do still have access to beautiful outdoor spaces, literally across the road – there is a gorgeous 10,000sqm park and walking distance to the town centre shops, cafes and restaurants.
Bigger blocks can mean ‘less affordable’.
Bigger blocks don’t always mean positive attributes – they can also mean they’re more likely to be out of your price range and mean a bigger mortgage and higher council rates.
Less to clean!
I remember once Mr Nerd and I arranging to meet friends out for dinner a couple years ago. Somehow we got our signals confused, and we wound up in Northbridge while they were waiting patiently for us at Old Shanghai for half an hour. Bah! “Let’s all get takeaway food instead and we can all meet back at our place and eat there,” our friends offered. “Meet there in half an hour.” I remember thinking, intrigued, how if I were to invite friends back to OUR place in half an hour they would walk into a pigsty and I would be embarrassed. But their place was spick and span. Even the floors were spotless. At the risk of revealing myself as a total grot, I was genuinely intrigued! A smaller home means less to clean and easier to keep clean. And if you hire a cleaner, a smaller space to clean means a smaller cleaning bill.
Buying a smaller block may mean a better and more convenient location.
Sacrifice land size for location and you may be able to live in a fantastic area situated near tons of amenities that make busy modern life easier. I used to live within a very short walk to loads of restaurants, shops and cafes and absolutely loved it. There was little that made me feel more relaxed than coming home after a day of work, gym and a 45 minute drive in peak-hour traffic home than knowing that from my house I could walk to the video store (I miss video stores!), pick up some yummy takeaway food for dinner then stroll home for a nice relaxing night in.
Megan says today, the more affordable, big blocks of land often tend to be located further away from the CBD and other hubs, so they can mean a bigger work commute or a less desirable location, yet many smaller block developments are being situated near hubs of amenities and entertainment, with convenient transport (Megan says Ellenbrook is soon to be even better-connected via the Northlink).
More free time.
On top of that, smaller-block homes tend to be situated in locations that offer convenience and more amenities; restaurants, shops, public transport, medical facilities, gyms and so on. While a big house is a romantic Lotto dream for a lot of people, a smaller residence might be the smarter choice for people who want to save money and have more time and lifestyle flexibility, says Megan. “Not having to travel far to shops, cafes, gyms and bars from home is a real lifestyle decision,” she says. “The homes at Innovo have all of that on their doorstep, perfect for our modern lifestyle. These days people are also working longer hours, so having a home that you don’t have to spend all weekend cleaning or all weekend mowing the lawns and looking after an extensive garden space really appeals. The great thing about Innovo is people do still have access to beautiful outdoor spaces literally across the road. It is also on the doorstep of the Swan Valley and overall the residents who already call it home love the lifestyle it offers the most!”
Modern smaller-home designs are more thoughtful and beautifully designed than ever.
Back in the day, small home living used to mean poky and small, and/or a serious lack of storage! But the best thing about buying a new small home is that it doesn’t need to FEEL small, says Megan. “All the homes at Innovo have been meticulously designed to be space conscious, meaning not only not wasting space but creating a sense of space albeit in a small area through well thought-out floor plans,” she says. “These clever designs make these homes feel spacious with functional living zones and outdoor spaces and there is definitely no shortage of space and storage.”
Good new developments will offer different choices and floor plans too – Megan says Innovo has nine different display homes, each with a completely different floor plan, for both 4.5m and 6m frontage lots, with two bedroom, three bedroom and four bedroom houses available by builders Aveling Homes, Homebuyers Centre, Terrace and Thompson Sustainable Homes.
Smaller homes mean easier (and less expensive) renovations and home improvements.
Just by having a more compact home and block means if you do need to do any renovations or home improvements, they can be done easily and for less cost than if you needed to do a bigger renovation on a bigger home.
Low-maintenance homes have good resale – and they’re great lock-up-and-leave properties.
While a decreasing number of buyers these days are after a large property with a big garden, pool and all the trimmings, choosing to buy something easy-care with a low-fuss garden can make resale easier. Megan says her team has been introduced to a range of interested buyers including first homebuyers (singles and couples) and those who are planning children soon. “But we’ve also had downsizers, who have been really attracted to this product due to it being of a high standard inside and out with tall ceilings, good-sized kitchens and bedrooms but also low-maintenance which makes them great for lock-up and leave – perfect for people who travel for leisure or work or would prefer to spend their weekends not busy around the home!” Megan says the homes have also been designed so people can enjoy outdoor spaces across the road with others with an increased sense of community and security.
Thank you to LWP Property Group and the Department of Communities, the developers behind Innovo at Ellenbrook, for supporting this story. You can check out their website here or their display village, which is open on Hesperia Parade in Ellenbrook on Saturday and Sundays between 1pm and 5pm and Wednesdays between 2pm and 5pm.
You are much smarter than me, Maya, because you figured this out early. I, too, remember how I gushed at yard of my previous house (I don’t remember the yard size but the lot was 75′ x 155′ (and the house was a small 2 bedroom house). The space my dogs would have to run! The zoomies! The chases! With the big lot also came a large number of mature maples, one of them really humangous, and a copious amount of leaves each fall. I remember having raked 90 brown bags of leaves one fall (then I smartened up and built a huge composting area). When I was moving to my current house, I looked at the yard and said “Too small.” “More manageable”, my realtor corrected me. And she was right. 12 years later and with an unexpected shoulder injury, I wish there was even less yard to maintain. And houses, in my opinion, are more about a layout than a size. There is only one flaw in the ‘smaller lots’ concept: there is less of a buffer between your house and the neighbours’.
Alena! This made me smile. I love your directness; telling the realtor (we call them real estate agents here, it’s so cumbersome and I wish people said realtor more often!) “too small” straight up (and them telling you “more manageable”. 90 bags of leaves!!! Arrrgh! Although maples sure are beautiful. Raking leaves was one of my childhood chores…. my parents had a lot of trees. I don’t miss the raking leaves. So crappy about your shoulder injury. (For me it is my back and neck that sometimes spasms up and makes gardening and other tasks impossible; it’s so annoying). Them zoomies though…. I know the feeling! There is nothing as joyful as watching a dog do zoomies. When Nala does them we call her “crazy dog”. You just have to yell, “Crazy dog” at her and she automatically does zoomies. It never fails to crack me up (and good way to get her tired in a pinch!)
Hi I clicked on the icon ADVICE and found myself here! More than likely in the wrong place however I was bursting to ask 2 things which you may or may not have time to answer but Im being driven mad. In our home the TV is God. The big ugly brute (TV not God) sits atop an even uglier tv table which if I had the energy I would probably set a lit match to! Our home is a small 2 bed but not a lot of wall space. So every move I make with the sofa and anything else it just all winds up honouring the damn TV (which I must mention is my hubbys fave appliance I think of it as his life support machine. Thats problem 1. how do I meld an big ugly TV into a small lounge? Help! My other drama is I love my home its all new and shiny but I also love my vintage nic nacs, and Im struggling incorporating the two is there a secret to this? I want to display my huge rose Pyrex collection from the 50’s/60’s into a Hamptons style dresser which we are still currently upgrading. I just want things to blend rather than look in stark contrast. Thank you enjoy your blog lots 🙂 Janette
Hi Janette, it’s so funny that you left this comment! I literally have a half-written blog post in my Drafts folder that I’m dying to finish up and publish on this very topic – how to style around a big ugly TV! I am struggling with the very same issue in our house, and I even consulted an interior designer friend about it over coffee the other week! Stay tuned and I’ll finish the post in the next few weeks. Your other question is another great topic – I’ll try to do a blog post on this too. I have seen a few modern houses where they’ve displayed something old, vintage, quirky or something that you might not think would work in such a house to great success. I’ll try to get some pro advice for you! (I love rose Pyrex – beautiful!)