Georg Chmiel talks with liveability guru Cecille Weldon about unlocking a home's hidden value

Georg Chmiel talks with liveability guru Cecille Weldon about unlocking a home's hidden value
Georg Chmiel talks with liveability guru Cecille Weldon about unlocking a home's hidden value

Cecille Weldon believes that —within not too many years— you could well be trading on energy markets, the way people today trade shares, using dedicated apps to get higher prices for the energy you capture and store through your home’s solar and batteries. 

More importantly, she says there is a quiet revolution building in real estate that is starting to impact property value. When you’re ready to sell or rent a home, a new property appraisal will allow you to showcase how many “Liveability Features” the home has to make it more marketable. 

I worked with Weldon while I was CEO at LJ Hooker. In fact, I put her on that company’s Executive Leadership Team. Today, I talk to her about how the power of Liveability is changing the way we Australians live in our homes – and how much we pay to do so.

Challenged to think differently by a Famous Father

Weldon isn’t just any random visionary. She has vision in her genes.  

Cecille is daughter of famous Australian publisher and entrepreneur Kevin Weldon, whose publishing empire came to rank alongside big mining and manufacturing companies as one of the country’s 200 largest exporters. Kevin Weldon also helped found the International Lifesaving Federation and Earthwatch Australia. His latest venture “The Ripper Group” is behind the world’s first drone surf rescue. He received the Order of Australia from a grateful nation in 1994.

With this kind of father, it’s no surprise that Cecille Weldon started her first business while still in high school – manufacturing silkscreened shoulder bags for the travel industry. 

“I didn’t realize 16-year-olds weren’t supposed to call up marketing managers and ask for a meeting,” she told me. “Business was part of everyday conversation with Dad, and you felt compelled to act on your ideas, not just talk about them”

Changing the Way We Value Our Homes

By the time she joined LJ Hooker, Weldon was already a recognized brand expert and an innovative thinker. The company hired her to identify and qualify future brand opportunities and give its agents an advantage. But her work is now recognized on a national level. It stands to benefits every property owner, buyer and renter in Australia.

Back in 2010, Weldon identified the first signs of what is now recognized as a key factor in a new value proposition, enabling home owners and investors to unlock the hidden value in their homes and connect to an exciting new market in residential real estate. Fundamental to its success was specialist training for real estate professionals. She developed the 17 key features that have been proven to make a home more comfortable and affordable to live in. 

Under her guidance, agents trained in her new Liveability Real Estate Framework began helping vendors and investors highlight these 17 features in their property marketing. In many cases, this was delivering a new perceptions of value, creating the opportunity to achieve a higher price in a shorter time frame. That made everyone happy.

The Centre for Liveability Real Estate was established as it become clear that what Weldon had created at LJ Hooker was too big and important for just one agency. When CSIRO acquired it, Weldon joined with them to turn the framework into a nationally consistent independent platform empowering both consumers and the property industry to deliver better more trusted information about home’s Liveability Features at point of sale or rent.

Innovation Is More Powerful Than the Word Sustainability 

The 17 Liveability features that Weldon identified are:

1. Climate Zone of your city

2. Living Locally 

3. Orientation 

4. Cross-ventilation 

5. Zoning 

6. Insulation 

7. Density of Building Materials 

8. Windows 

9. Shading or Sun Control 

10. Efficient Heating and Cooling Devices 

11. Energy Efficient Lighting 

12. Efficient Hot Water System 

13. Solar Photovoltaic (PV) System 

14. Low Water Garden 

15. Water Efficiency Devices 

16. Rainwater Tanks 

17. Home Energy Rating

Many of these features are often associated with the idea of sustainability, but don’t tell that to Weldon.

“The word “sustainability” is paradoxically a barrier in this situation,” she said. “Liveability Features deliver a better home in every measure of the word – one that is healthy, efficient, comfortable, and affordable to run. And also one that has less of an impact on the environment. The word ‘sustainability’ limits our understanding of ALL the benefits available from these features, which are really just an aspect of good building design.”

Weldon points out that housing affordability and energy prices are two of Australia’s major preoccupations, but they are seldom looked at together. 

“They are actually two sides of the same affordability debate: afford to buy and afford to run,” Weldon says. “We all know you can have a cheap house that is really expensive to run. The costs of paying for your home and of paying to operate your home should be considered as the one measure of affordability in the value chain. That’s the only way you can accurately decide how much you can afford to pay for a property.”

At any open for inspection, Weldon says research shows that nine out of 10 people are wondering in the back of their minds how much the property is going to cost to run. 

“We’ve been tracking how many people ask to see a power bill when looking at a house. That’s a way of saying, ‘I want to know the running costs.’ The real estate industry with the right tools and training, can now be a catalyst to deliver better, more trusted information on a property’s true Liveability features.”

Advice to Vendors and Landlords

Weldon’s advice for vendors and landlords who want to get the most when they sell or rent their property is to make sure their agent has upskilled with this award winning Liveability Real Estate Specialist Training, so they can showcase your home’s verified Liveability Features in their marketing campaign. 

“You don’t want to feel like. ‘Why has my agent ignored all these other features I have invested in? I could have gotten a higher price,’” she says.

In any property that you own, Weldon says, over time you should focus your renovations on reducing running costs and increasing comfort and convenience. This is the new value opportunity for Australian property. It means that the renovation will deliver a more comfortable, healthy home that’s cheaper to run. This benefits you when you’re in the home and now you’ll be rewarded when you’re ready to sell the home.

You may even be able to get a government incentive to do so. Weldon says many state governments are working on the idea of tax relief to encourage investors to upgrade with some of these Liveability Features because many rental properties are too expensive to run. 

“If landlords don’t start upgrading things like the hot water system and heating and cooling devices, then their properties will struggle to maintain their rental value.

“Rising running costs are responsible for a significant share of rent defaults, higher vacancy rates, and shorter tenancies,” said Weldon. “On 7:30 Report a few months ago, a tenant said the bills were so high they had no alternative but to leave.”

Believe it or not, the two most cost-effective improvements you can make are not solar panels or rainwater tanks, even though they are the poster children for sustainability. 

“The features that give you the biggest bang for your buck and are easiest to do,” she told me, “are ceiling insulation and shading. The shading stops that sun from hitting the window in the first place. For most of Australia (except the Top End) the shading that matters is on the north and the east/west sides.

A Bright Future

In our conversation, Weldon ticked off some of the changes she thinks are coming to the way we Australians live and invest in our homes.

There’s a new breed of real estate agent coming down the line with better, more relevant, and future focused property knowledge about what really matters.

Renovators are going to start to look “beyond the bling” when they’re creating their property wish list … bringing in these new Liveability Features to deliver health, comfort, and lifestyle with the assurance of ongoing affordability.

If you are an investor, Weldon says there some exciting opportunities for both you and your renter to benefit. Initiatives like SunTenants can help you purchase solar panels and how much you can increase your rent to help pay for the investment. This is matched by a 100% guarantee to the renter that the saving on their energy bill will always be more than the rent increase. 

“The running costs are absolutely going to impact property value,” said Weldon. “It won’t be long before your solar panels, battery, and electric car will all work together to keep your costs as low as possible. More and more homes will be energy positive – meaning they produce more energy than they consume. This will open a whole new opportunity to gain value from our homes.”

That will be good for you, your budget, and for Australia’s environment.

GEORG CHMIEL, the chairman of Juwai, a Chinese website for buyers of overseas property, was speaking to Cecille Weldon in his regular column giving insight into the leading minds of Australian property experts.

He has spoken with LJ Hooker agent Bill Malouf about the ins and out of the Sydney market, REINSW president Leanne Pilkington about women in real estate, developer Larry Kestelman about developing your first property, Harcourts boss Mike Green on real estate investment secrets and Ironfish chief Joseph Chou on investing in today's market.


Liveability Georg Chmiel

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