oc | Tuesday 7th December

October Market Start / Stonnington Heritage Reversal

Some casual onlookers at Surrey Hills, 8 Empress Road (Mark Read) signaleed to start of the middle and major Spring market. ON what we saw today and with the exception of clear A graders - numbers were down, stock

Casual onlookers at Surrey Hills, 8 Empress Road (Mark Read) signal the start of Melbourne’s major spring market. On what we saw today and with the exception of A-graders – expected queues were down, numbers were down and overall the BUZZ was muffled.


Contents October Market Start Edition

1. October Market Start

2. Inside James – An incredible story from East to Tanzania

3. Game Changer – Heritage Reversal

It (usually) attracts more than a Grand Final,

a bigger array of stars than the Cup Carnival – the results are more telling than the Bathurst 500: that’s what Super Saturday, October 28th will represent to the largest array of  on offer in 2017.

This weekend was the start of the Open for Inspections, leading into the biggest buy/sell time of the year.

From Surrey Hills to Kew, Hawthorn to , Armadale to Brighton; Rhi, Gina, Randall, Kathy and the rest of the James Ochre Jacket Army visited and assessed in excess of 50, $2m-plus Auction homes for clients.

And overall what we witnessed was

the most lacklustre start to a Market since 2011.

The crowds felt more like a GWS v Eagles game, than Richmond v Geelong.


James Ochre Jacket Army’s quick take

  • It was quicker to get around – overall traffic was easier to navigate in Inner Melbourne – so possibly many Melburnians are still in the Richmond pubs.
  • At most homes, except A-graders, it felt more like midweek, rather than Saturday open for inspections.
  • Unlike last year and the year before, there was a clear dichotomy between A-graders and C-graders. Last year all homes had interest. This year it is clear, after the first weekend some/many/? will have little interest and some none at all.
  • One theory being espoused by a number of agents, about the lower numbers, is best summarised by Stephen Smith ‘since the quoting laws we have seen slightly lower numbers at inspections, as we feel that buyers are better able to narrow their focus.’
  • Another theory (which we support) is simply that the market is easing – bidder depth continues to split between A and C-graders and shrink overall.
Easy parking was up, traffic jams were down, Queues were mostly gone and overall on many homers thre was a distinct lack of buzz. Crowds were well down for what has in the past few years been an exciting start on the run to Christmas

Easy parking was up, traffic jams were down, queues were mostly gone and overall on many homes there was a distinct lack of buzz. Crowds were down, for what has in the past few years, been an exciting start on the run to Christmas.

Wrong Call Right Call

Albert Park, 335 Montague Street– 50 groups  Crowds were lining up on the street as if it was auction day. Impressive location and proximity to everything appealing to a range of buyer types.

The A-grade market’s demise would seem to be greatly exaggerated if we took Albert Park, 335 Montague Street (Oliver Bruce and Kaine Lanyon) as an example. Crowds were lining up on the street, at this first open, as if it was auction day. So for the A-graders the bidder depth was seemingly still there.

 Year to Date Overall Market Scoreboard


The trend has clearly been a significant drop in overall bidder depth between 2016 and 2017 – mainly led by the reduction in money and bidders from overseas.

After the surprisingly strong start of the New Year market (on low stock numbers), we have continued to see an easing in bidder numbers through to the Footy Finals market just completed.

We feel overall Clearance Rates are remaining very high due to the Iceberg effect. The previous markets of 2015 and 2016 were so deep with bidder numbers, that despite what has been going on below decks (fewer losing underbidders), the market on the surface has still appeared to be going gangbusters.

Melbourne Iceberg

The big test for October is, can the market sustain these relatively high clearance rates if bidder numbers continue to ease even further.

After what we saw today we have our doubts.

If the Clearance Rates do ease, then we will begin to see an across the board fall in pricing; as the easing clearance rates will be more a result of bidder depth, than seller expectations.


BUT hold your horses, the jury is still out, it’s early days and all the other cliches – on a macro front, we are not seeing evidence of major fall-outs – population growth still remains uncontrolled and increasing AND in the month before the Grand Final, we still assessed the market as SOLID.

AND a lot of what’s on offer was, for me personally boring as bat-poo. Of the ten homes I saw, 5 I didn’t even bother taking extensive notes on, 3 were probably a no and 2 maybe’s.

Possibly other buyers just proved that they were smarter than me and remained away from the OFI’s and on their verandahs with G & T’s, whilst I traipsed around getting donuts (zero).


In October, the off market almost ceases to exist.

It turns back up in November and is usually in full swing again by early December.


Time and attitude of most agents. Many good agents are simply full on with auctions right now and when there is the occasional gap in the diary – most take a breather to review and plan; or simply take a breather and see if they have any children left.

Good luck to all with exams coming up – it’s eggshell time at home, hey!

4th and final 2017 – 100 Auction Market Test

At James Buyer Advocates we will be covering and reporting the results on 100 randomly chosen auctions, over $2 million in Inner East and Bayside for the final time of year 2017 – October 21st, 28th and November 25th – to find out where the Top End Inner Melbourne market rests at the end of 2017.

Unusually, we have five weekends between the Grand Final and the Melbourne Cup – normally we only have four. So more stock will be on offer now and less in November. It will be a late finish to 2017, in all likelihood – with mop-ups (and maybe some bargains) up until a few days before Christmas.

Please note: The Coca Cola logo and the Sportsbet “feel” was to give some colour to the visuals, as they are now part of everyday life – we are not endorsed, nor do we endorse or not, both companies – the images and logos would be subject to copyright.


In Africa, life for disabled children is harsh – my family has seen that first hand.

Sarah Rejman is a very impressive young Malvern East woman, whom we have spent several weeks with, on multiple occasions, in Africa.

Sarah goes out into the countryside, finds children in need – surgeons fly in from America and Australia and operate – after rehab, Sarah and her team return the children back to their community – in a lot better shape to withstand the rigours of African life.

Sarah is simply amazing.

Sarah is coming back to Melbourne in October-November – why not consider meeting her?

I personally have learnt a lot from her, maybe you can too.

Maybe as an individual or as a family you can go to Tanzania and help for a few weeks.

Maybe come to her talk below.

Maybe you can help with funding.


The Founder and Director of the Plaster House, Sarah Rejman is travelling to Melbourne to  spread the word about her remarkable work for disabled children in Arusha, Tanzania.

Opened in 2008, the Plaster House is home to over 100 children in Arusha, supporting them as they recover from a range of procedures and surgeries.

From an initial 9 beds, it has grown into something much bigger than anyone could have ever imagined.

Sarah (a Melbourne girl) and her team’s story is truly inspirational.

Come meet Sarah and hear what she has to say.

Saint Johns Community Hall

5 Finch St, Malvern East

5:30pm Thursday 2nd November

Register now : www.trybooking.com/SISI

Any questions or queries contact: mal@james.net.au or 0408 107 988 or Rev John Baldock 0438 640 644.

For more information about The Plaster House, check out their website www.theplasterhouse.org or check out their Instagram @theplasterhouse or Facebook.



First some Good Heritage News!

This week the Stonnington council voted overwhelmingly to reverse/reject an interim “one-off one-out” Heritage order,

placed singularly on a Malvern home, without warning; 24 hours before it was scheduled to go to auction two months ago – while the rest of the street remained Heritage free.

Hooray and well done – justice and sanity prevailed.

So is the Stonnington Heritage nightmare over after this groundbreaking decision?

No, not by a long shot in Stonnington. And now Council is scaring the “bejesus” out of its own residents and ratepayers with:

Secret Council Heritage Lists

containing dozens of homes destined for One-off, One-Out Heritage.

The story so far:

Stonnington Destroys Auction story – click here.

One-off, One-Out and Surviving Heritage Strategy – click here

The Age reporting of the Stonnington Heritage Reversal – click here

On one side, we say well done to the Stonnington councillors this week for their common decency in reversing the Heritage order and effectively admitting/conceding the absolute Heritage folly of what went on in Malvern.

On the other side, it also highlights the impending damage of the “Secret Heritage Lists” that a “one-off one-out” Heritage Strategy will continue to cause, to Stonnington and now Boroondara residents.

These secret lists and one-off one-out Heritage strategies are weakening the whole Heritage concept of Inner Melbourne – which needs to be supported, not weakened.

Sellers are getting the brush off when they ring Council to enquire as to the possible future Heritage status of a home – it’s arrogant and it’s wrong.

Buyers are also becoming increasingly nervous about buying . Will they, in year 1, 2 or 3 AFTER they purchase a home, be slapped with a one-off, one-out Heritage order, thus potentially dropping their home’s by 20% or even worse (as we have just witnessed) making it unsaleable?


Pragmatic Interlude

Was this week’s council reversal decision one of Heritage strategy change, or was it one of pragmatism?

Unfortunately, we all think we know the answer.

Last month a Heritage order was slapped on a home 24 hours before an auction, without warning (when all the written documentation from the council said no Heritage) AND then when disputed, Heritage experts couldn’t agree it should be subject to an order AND the owner then lined up some legal heavy weights AND this week the Stonnington councillors ran for cover.

The councillors decision was humane, but it wasn’t the end – it was no more than a pragmatic interlude; as it reduced a potential $2 million council payout – to a claim for circa $80,000 in lost marketing fees, legal and heritage architect costs in defending a right to sell a home, without the application of a flawed one-off, one-out heritage strategy.

The Council themselves proved the flaws in their own one-off, one-out Heritage strategy.

At the council hearing – the council officers and the councillors were at opposite ends of the Heritage spectrum – they totally disagreed (with each other) on this one house – as they will again and again on one-off houses, in the future.

At the council hearing – two highly regarded heritage architect firms Bryce Raworth and Lovell Chen could not agree (with each other) on the heritage merits of a one-off, one-out “Heritage” home – as they will again and again in the future.

So if two high quality, heritage architects and the council officers and their own councillors cannot agree on an individual home, what chance is there for the rest of us in deciding the Heritage merits of individual “one-off one-out” Heritage homes.

Let us help you – the chances are zero.

And there-in is the crux of the flawed Heritage strategy.


There are no guilty parties here – just a flawed one-off, one-out Heritage Strategy.

We at James Buyer Advocates totally support both Bryce Raworth and Lovell Chen to have their expert opinions and both these companies are quality Heritage architects. We recommend both to clients. None of the flawed Stonnington Strategy lies with them – neither should have been involved – it should never have got to where it got.

Everything in life is an opinion – an emotional one. Order comes when those opinions can be grouped and corralled within logical guidelines. Chaos reigns when there are no community accepted guidelines.

Heritage cannot be forced by Council officers onto an individual homeowner at the grass roots level, without major disharmony.

Heritage must be street/precinct based with wide community support for the Heritage concept to work.

So while Council this week WAS the right place to decide a Heritage dispute – there was actually no need for it to have been there, if Stonnington Council’s Heritage Strategy was sound.

Ugly Precedent.

Unfortunately while the one-off one-out Heritage strategy remains, we now have this ugly precedentindividual opinions on each house and then when the inevitable disputes arise – it’s lawyers at 20 paces and $80,000 later a decision is made by councillors. There are hundreds of homes in Stonnington and Boroondara that would fall into consideration with the one-off one-out Heritage strategy and not everybody has a spare $80,000.

Hundreds of disputes – OMG.

Can I digress, but remain on the Heritage subject – it’s relevant – please?

In the last buying week before the Grand Final (Gina is a Tigers supporter – it’s been painful in the office), in the last week we at James Buyer Advocates bought a number of properties, including four Heritage homes totalling $12.5 million (Dean Gilbert, Nick Richards, Pat Dennis, ).

Three of those homes had a Heritage order and one of them didn’t. We love buying Heritage and will continue to do so.

Anyway, below are two of the Heritage homes we bought – the top one is a basic 1960’s home with little architectural merit BUT it has a Heritage Order.

The bottom one has a beautiful façade and adds to the street character but it DOES NOT have a Heritage Order.


We totally agree and support the above Heritage order and Non-Heritage orders.


Because they are precinct/street based Heritage orders, not individual ones.

The top home, will in time likely be demolished within a Heritage order and the bottom one will likely remain with the façade as is – outside a Heritage order.

This in our opinion, shows excellent Heritage Policy combined with excellent Heritage Strategies – some demolitions can still take place, some homes protected and almost zero serious disputes – as every individual homeowner knows where they stand.


Why are Street based Heritage Orders workable and individual Heritage orders not?

1. A street/precinct Heritage order does not create major discrepancies in value between neighbours. In fact in many cases it can lift – look at Gascoigne, Grace Park, Tara Estate to name a few. These precincts have higher value properties than neighboring precincts because of good Heritage policy and strategy.

2. While street/precinct based Heritage orders will have some disagreement, they are a lot easier to reach community agreement on. Bryce Raworth and Lovell Chen will disagree on individual houses however, I believe you will find they and the community can agree a lot easier on Streets, Styles and Precincts. Without community understanding and then agreement, you cannot have good Heritage Policy.

3. Heritage Streets/Precincts are widely known within the community – meaning there are few surprises to the individual buyer or seller. It’s easier to plan for the future for both buyers and sellers. It’s fairer on the individual AND better for individual and community harmony.

Please note: If we must have the occasional individual Heritage order, then they can be done successfully with owner agreement and within community-agreed, consistent and across the board guidelines – they really should not be forcefully applied retrospectively.

But Mal, that means we will miss some homes of architectural merit, that will ultimately be bulldozed.

True – and it’s disappointing that there will be a few casualties however, there will be a lot fewer casualties than under the one-off one-out Heritage Strategy – if it’s fully completed.

Look at where we are now – Heritage Architects, Councillors, Council Officers and Owners of period homes are totally confused as to what the one-off, one-out Heritage Strategy actually means after this week’s decision.


Read the actual Council Officer’s recommendation on just one home (click here) – they said yes, put a Heritage Order on the home.

Councillors said no, don’t do it.

Bryce Raworth (one expert) said yes, place an Heritage order on it.

Lovell Chen (another expert) said no, don’t do it.

Yes/no/yes/no – that my friends is total confusion.

and that is how badly the one-off, one-out Stonnington Heritage Strategy works, or doesn’t work.

Honestly from day one, no two people/experts have the same idea of how a Heritage strategy should be applied to an individual older home – BUT almost all are crystal clear as to what the Heritage Orders in precincts like Gascoigne, Tara or Grace Park actually mean and how they should be applied. Most architects, town planners, council workers, owners and buyers and yes even me, would be able to agree on a street or precinct.

Heritage Policy in Stonnington and Boroondara big tick.

Heritage Strategy One-off, one-out big cross.

Please, good Heritage Policy in Stonnington and Boroondara is actually simple – it’s not complicated and it’s already there.


Councils can designate Heritage areas successfully.

Councils cannot designate individual style successfully.

As soon as councils feel they are given the power to decide on each and every home, with no consistent or understood or agreed to guidelines – then we return to the

Roman Colosseum thumbs up /thumbs down days

and we place the council and officers above Modern Australia’s rule of law and we create Heritage anarchy.

Existing Heritage Policy is important and in the main, it is working.

It does not need radical change – it needs a transition halt to complete the street/precinct heritage overlays and the removal of the one-off one-out strategy and Secret Heritage lists.

Councils finish the job please – give us a Heritage consistency across ALL of our community –  stop plugging the holes individually. Yes, we understand that the occasional home will fall through the cracks, but overall more will remain with consistent, community accepted policy – than one off, one out.

Yes, the St Georges Road Toorak demolition was upsetting – but please save our overall community Heritage by remaining calm, strategic and consistent and do not pursue one-off one-out Heritage strategies and especially not 24 hours before an auction or 24 hours after; when a seller / new buyer was told the opposite in writing.

Good luck to the owners of this debacle, who are re-auctioning soon – we hope it works for them, as they have been put through an unfair and unnecessary agony.

What still worries many of us, is that until there is removal of one-off one-out Heritage strategy, more will go through this same unnecessary hell.

161 Church


Every home pictured in this article, we have purchased for James Buyer Advocates clients – all are still standing – no pictures relate to any of the homes mentioned in the story.

We have bought hundreds of period homes in Boroondara, Stonnington, Bayside and Port Phillip, on and off market, over the last 15 years or so.

We do not act for, nor are we funded by developers or interest groups.

Our company is not involved in currently, nor has had any planning application dispute with Stonnington or Boroondara Council in the past.

We love Heritage Homes (my family lives in one).

A Big Thank you to:

  • A big well done to Allison Worrall and Alice Stolz from The Age for their sensitive and very public support of the aggrieved owners’ position.
  • Congrats to Lovell Chen for having ‘some Heritage goolies’ to argue the point and support the family. We have deliberately stayed away from our opinion of this specific Heritage Order, so as not to miss the main game – the actual overall flawed Heritage Strategy. However if you want to see what an expert thought of this Heritage Order, then read the Lovell Chen’s report to council. It’s polite, it’s damning and it’s crystal clear. Click here.
  • Well done to the residents of the home for fighting the good fight – hopefully your bravery will help others avoid this.
  • Sincere congrats to the Stonnington Councillors who voted this down, against your officers’ recommendations – just wish you didn’t have to do this and hope that the officers can soon be given fairer guidelines to operate within.

Mal James

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