ARTICLE Persephone Nicholas
Known for its spectacular coastline, where spectacular surf beaches are backed by a rugged escarpment, the Illawarra region is little more than an hour’s drive (c. 80km) south of Sydney.
Residents love being able to combine the convenience and amenities of urban life – Wollongong, the Illawarra’s largest city is the third largest in NSW – with the many pleasures of living in a picturesque coastal environment. The area is known for its easy-going lifestyle and surf culture.
Cinzia Gagliardi of Refresh Renovations Illawarra says the region is home to a diverse local community.
‘The Illawarra is home to people of many different backgrounds; those borne from the days of mass migration from overseas and interstate through the work afforded to them by the steel works and the coal mines. This melting pot has helped create a vibrant local culture in a thriving regional town right beside the ocean.’
The population of the Illawarra currently stands at around 300,000, with most people living in Wollongong, Shellharbour and Kiama. Although prices are rising, property is generally more affordable than in Sydney (median house prices are around $720,000 at time of writing), and there is a good supply of homes that could benefit from renovation.
What types of property are there in the Illawarra?
Cinzia says many homes in the area were built to house local workers.
‘The Illawarra was built around local industry and property was commissioned to meet the needs of workers. The coal mines saw the creation of miners’ cottages, while the steel works saw the development of commissioned homes. In later years, property estates for growing families spread to the south and the west of the Illawarra,’ she explains.
She says many renovators are keen to extend their homes.
‘The most popular types of renovation in the Illawarra include the extension of properties from once small and often run down workers’ dwellings, into homes with the space for growing families. Wanting to maintain the character and integrity of the main dwelling, many families are choosing to blend the original structure of their property with a new contemporary extension that creates the indoor and outdoor flow that will allow them to enjoy the beautiful weather and scenery of the region all year round.’
Do you have any tips for renovators in the Illawarra?
Cinzia says research and planning are vital when renovating;
‘Planning and preparation are the keys to a successful and streamlined job. Prospective renovators should invest plenty of time in getting advice from trained professionals about what they hope to achieve and the potential structural and non-structural recourse the renovation may require.’
‘Before jumping into the creation of plans, get advice about concepts, whether the ideas are feasible, and whether the ideas are within your budget. Detailed planning in these early stages will reduce the risk of embarking on a project that begins, but fails to meet Code and Regulations or far exceeds the budget and the time the renovators initially anticipated.’