We all want a piece of green

Published on 26/04/2014

Whether it's the attraction of a broad swath of grass to walk or play on, or the shade of leafy trees to sit under, it seems that everyone likes to live close to parks.

When it comes to living near or on parkland, the simple truth is we can't get enough of it.


"We get many people asking to buy near or next to parkland," says James Keenan, director of inner-city agency Nelson Alexander, "but it's a request often made but seldom realised."


Not that we, once recognised by our number plates as the Garden State, have any shortage of verdant pasture.


From the eyrie of Google Maps, the city is awash with green - from the unbroken swath that runs north-eastwards from Abbotsford to Warrandyte, tracing the Yarra River, right down to the pocket parks and gardens speckling the urban landscape. The City of Boroondara, alone, boasts 266 open green spaces covering almost 600 hectares.


The problem is there is limited housing bordering some of the city's most green-chip parks and gardens. As Keenan points out, "Tenure of ownership is somewhat longer."


In other words, we don't give up the park easily.


While home owners talk of the calming effect a leafy outlook instils, Biggin & Scott director Guy St Leger says they also want the lifestyle.


For young families, it means a place to push a pram or let their kids off the leash, especially if there is a playground with swings, slides, a sandpit or jungle gym; or kick a ball when they're older. For others, it can be somewhere to walk, jog, entertain or have a barbecue or picnic.


Dog owners can let their pooches run free, if it's an off-leash park, which is particularly beneficial for those with little or no private garden or those on their own who can hook up with other dog lovers.


For baby boomers downsizing from suburban locales, used to garden allotments, inner-city apartments near parks offer familiar leafy prospects.


In fact, agents agree home owners generally view any neighbouring patch of green, big or small, as "theirs". "They see it as an extension of their own garden fully paid for by the council," says Richard Winneke, of Jellis Craig.


While buyers' advocate Melissa Opie cites a British study promoting the mental-health benefits of living by parkland, she cautions that "there are parks and there are parks".


"Some are more desirable than others," she says. "It depends on location."


Undoubtedly, the closer to town they are, the more highly prized parks become. The emeralds in the crown are the manicured inner-city tracts, such as the Royal Botanic Gardens, the Domain and Fawkner Park south of the Yarra, and to the north, Royal and Princes Parks as well as the Carlton, Fitzroy and Edinburgh Gardens.


"We find all the properties up Domain Road and along Anderson Street [opposite the Botanic Gardens] always hit records," says Kay & Burton agent Andrew Baines, nominating a three-bedroom flat that fetched $8 million because it overlooked the gardens.


St Leger also believes parks can add a premium to the price, maybe 5 to 10 per cent, favouring properties fronting, rather than backing onto parkland.


He says the agency often conducts South Yarra and Prahran auctions in the park, but he emphasises there are many variables.


Extra traffic with kids' parties or sporting activities can be a downside, as can be the personal trainers and their hoo-ha boot-camp antics.


Winneke doesn't see these as necessarily negative, but Opie is more circumspect, highlighting litter, privacy, security and noise as other potential drawbacks.


"Make sure the neighbourhood park won't critically detract from your quality of life," she advises.




1. Inspect the park at different times of the day and night, as well as weekends.


2. Speak to the neighbours about park goings-on.


3. Look at whether noise or traffic congestion are major issues.


4. If backing on to parkland, check the property's privacy - make sure people can't look directly into living areas. A gate for easy access is a plus though.


5. Look at security: is the fence high enough to deter thieves? Does it add a cost to your insurance premium?


6. What facilities does the park or garden have? Is it child-friendly?


7. Does the park or garden have a sporting ground attached? Great if you have sporty kids.


8. Is the park off-leash? Great if you are a dog owner.


9. Check to see what council restrictions apply - ball sports can be forbidden, as can riding a bike.


10. Can local communities help maintain the park, plant trees?






Pam and Vincent Icasiano weren't thinking about parkland when they began hunting for a larger abode for themselves and six-year-old son Joshua.


That was until they stumbled across the renovated late Victorian in Rathmines Road, in Hawthorn East, which they were pleased to find backed onto Rathmines Reserve.


The young family was particularly taken with the leafy outlook. An ancient holly oak in the park towers over their rear fence.


"When we saw it, we said, 'That's a real plus'," recalls Pam Icasiano, who bought the house last November.


Even though the home is on a busy thoroughfare, Icasiano sees the parkland as more than compensating. In fact, it's an antidote.


"It's really peaceful and relaxing, like you're somewhere else, more holiday house than home," she says.


To date, her husband has taken most advantage of their green neighbour - he runs most mornings. Pam Icasiano hopes to go more often to the playground with her son. They don't have a dog, but are interested in getting one, given that it's also an off-leash area.


As for the noise, given the reserve is also home to the Hawthorn Cricket and Amateur Football clubs? They hope to watch the local sporting teams, and a high fence allays any concerns about security and privacy.


Later, they may build up to take full advantage of the outlook. "We talked about that before we bought," she says.

Paul Best - Financial Review

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