Benefits of listing

Heritage listing: a positive for owners

Have you noticed headings like these in the property section of your local newspaper lately: 'Full of character', 'Loads of charm', 'Remembering Yesteryear'? Chances are, these headlines are referring to an historic house, an elderly terrace or a charming cottage. They may even refer to a heritage-listed property. There is growing evidence to support the view that heritage listing has a positive impact on property values, and real estate advertisements are starting to reflect this.

The main reason why people purchase heritage buildings is because they like them. And they like them for all sorts of reasons. It may be because of their character, or well established gardens. They may have wonderful settings or pose the challenge of renovation, which so many people relish.

Owning a heritage-listed property brings other advantages:

  • Heritage listing provides certainty for owners, neighbours and intending purchasers. This is important when people are looking for a particular environment within which to live and work. It explains why certain suburbs, towns, villages and rural properties are sought after.
  • Protection of an item also requires the local council to consider the effect of any proposed development in the area surrounding heritage items or conservation areas. This is positive as it ensures an appropriate context for heritage items.
  • It confirms a heritage status that is a source of pride for many people. This status can be very useful for commercial operators in their advertising.
  • The assessment process leading to listing often unearths new information on the history and style of the item.
  • Through flexibility clauses in local environmental plans, owners of heritage items can request councils to agree to land use changes, site coverage and car parking bonuses unavailable to other owners.
  • Listing gives owners access to the free heritage advisory services provided by many councils. 
  • Listing provides potential savings through special heritage valuations and concessions. If the property is listed in a Local or Regional Environmental Plan (individually or in a conservation area) you can request a "heritage restricted valuation" for land tax and local rate purposes from the Valuer-General. If your property is on the State Heritage Register under the Heritage Act, you automatically receive a heritage valuation for both local rates and land tax purposes. Heritage restricted valuations are designed to ensure that valuations of property are made on an existing development basis rather than on any presumption of future development.
  • Listing enables access to heritage grants and loans through both Heritage NSW and local councils. Listing is generally a requirement for Heritage Council funding.
  • Listing on the State Heritage Register also enables owners to enter into heritage agreements, which can attract land tax, stamp duty and local rate concessions.
  • Listing on the State Heritage Register makes the property eligible for consideration under the Commonwealth's Annual Cultural Heritage Grants Program, which is open to both private owners and community groups.
  • Heritage listing enhances applications to other bodies where the building or site might be eligible for funding.

Photograph by Paramount Studios


Photograph by Paramount Studios

Debunking the myths about heritage listing

It can be easy to point the finger at heritage listing when problems arise, but the benefits can far outweigh any perceived negatives.

  • Listing places no legal restriction on the sale or leasing of properties.
  • Heritage buildings are best cared for when they are lived in and loved. This means they must be useable. Houses may need new bathrooms and kitchens; commercial buildings may need new services and fire protection.
  • Listing does not exclude changes or additions or new buildings on the site provided that these do not detract from the heritage significance of the listed items. This is consistent with what most owners want for their heritage properties. It is also consistent with advice from real estate agents that well looked after heritage properties are the easiest to sell and bring the highest prices.
  • Listing does not exclude the adaptive reuse of a heritage item for another use. Sometimes this is a sensible way of ensuring the use of a heritage item. For example, the conversion of a warehouse to residential use or the adaptation of a house to offices.
  • Other than normal maintenance it is not expected that owners take any special care of a heritage property. Only in situations where an owner is deliberately allowing a property to deteriorate would prosecution action be pursued.
  • Maintenance of heritage items and gardens does not require formal approval.
  • Some owners open their heritage properties to the public on a regular or occasional basis and usually on an entry fee basis either for themselves or charity. However, as with all private property, heritage listing does not allow the general public the right to visit your property without your express permission.

How to find out if a property is heritage-listed

In NSW there are two types of statutory heritage listing. A property is a heritage item if it is:

  • Listed in the heritage schedule to the local council's Local Environmental Plan (LEP);
  • Listed on the State Heritage Register, a register of places and items of particular importance to the people of NSW.

There are also many non-statutory heritage lists, such as the National Trust Register and the Royal Australian Institute of Architects' Register of 20th Century Buildings. Although these registers do not provide legal protection, they help to alert the community to the potential heritage value of places.

To find out if a property is heritage-listed, search the NSW State Heritage Inventory. Alternatively, you can check with your local council to find out if a property is identified in the Local Environmental Plan.

The National Trust maintains on its website a list of heritage properties available for purchase.