North, south, east or west: How can investors make the most of house aspect?

North, south, east, west and all the variations in between. Real estate advertisements regularly highlight a property’s aspect and light-filled interiors in order to attract buyers. In Australia, properties facing north are considered highly desirable due to the amount of direct sunlight received throughout the day. But how should properties with other aspects be considered? 

“In some respects, the ‘north-facing garden’ has become shorthand for an ideally sunlit property,” says Monique Wakelin, director of Wakelin Property Advisory in an article published recently in the AFR.

But Wakelin noted “what really matters is how the design of a property is affected by the direction it faces”.

“When considering aspect it’s not just a matter of north, south, east or west, but what this means for a property given its design, and how this plays out it terms of light,” she said adding that shying away from anything other than north-facing could mean missing out on a better investment opportunity.

Our property commentators Jonathan Chancellor and Margie Blok discuss concerns about aspect and light which vendors and buyers should heed when buying and selling properties no matter which direction they face.

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Keys factors vendors should consider:

* High capital growth is just as important as a perfect north aspect. Well located properties, and those with water views, usually increase in value even if the aspect is east, west or south.

* A well-designed house or beautifully presented apartment should reap financial rewards because buyers often pay a premium for quality renovations and good design.

* Installing skylights is a practical solution for hallways and rooms lacking sunlight  - funneling sunshine into gloomy spaces can totally transform the ambience of a house.

* Installing mirror panels or hanging mirrors to reflect light into dark corners is a clever (and inexpensive) solution often used by interior designers.

* Natural light is attractive to buyers, but designer interior lighting is too - it allows you to alter the mood of a room. Before listing your property consider seeking professional advice about installing decorative and ambient lighting.

*Don’t overlook outdoor and garden lighting which can enhance the beauty of your property at night.

* If your house has windows looking directly into a neighbour’s home consider replacing clear glass panes with opaque glass to provide privacy but also let in the same amount of light.

* Little or no sunlight can be grounds for rejecting a property by home buyers as well as investors, and can considerably reduce a property’s value, especially in high rise apartment blocks in increasingly crowded CBDs.

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Key factors buyers should heed:

* Check for brightness and sunlight by turning off electric lights to gauge how much natural light fills the rooms of a house or apartment.

* Too much sunshine can be a problem – you don’t want to have curtains drawn and air-conditioning running for hours on end in a west or north-west facing property that cops vast amounts of direct sunlight for most of the day.

* Apartments facing south or west should not be ruled out if these properties have water views or are set in a premium location. These apartments could hold better capital growth potential (and/or higher rental yield) than a north-facing apartment without a view or situated in a less desirable area.

* Be sure to check out a property at different times of the day – estate agents often schedule inspection times for the 30 to 45 minutes when a house or apartment is filled with maximum natural light.

* Check the estate agent’s spiel about a property’s aspect – sometimes their advertisements will emphasise a north-facing aspect but not make it clear which part of the house faces north. It could be the front bedrooms have a north aspect and the living areas at the back of the house, as well as the garden, are facing south. It’s important to check for yourself how a house is sited on the block, so take the iphone compass.

* Bedrooms are for sleeping, so it’s not important for these to be sunny – in fact, some people prefer bedrooms without a north aspect. But best check for mould and dampness problems in places where no light reaches.

* Don’t get carried away with beautiful interior décor and then fall in love with a property because of what it looks like – you need to assess its relationship with sunshine and natural light.

* Both home buyers and investors should check the floor plan and consider orientation of various rooms in houses and apartments – these can be just as important as aspect.

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