House Hunting in Australia: A Converted Salvation Army Hall in Sydney


This three-bedroom home is in Leichhardt, a dense suburb about three miles from the central business district of Sydney, Australia. Built in 1916, the building was originally a Salvation Army hall. The current owners converted the property in about 1997, taking care to retain its original facade and interior details out of respect for its long history in the neighborhood, said Ben Southwell, a sales agent with Cobden & Hayson, which has the listing.

“They didn’t want to chip away at the fabric that had been laid down in the area,” Mr. Southwell said. “Even after they moved in, people were still dropping off donations under the door for a while.”

The 2,874-square-foot home, on about a tenth of an acre, does not have the lengthy list of amenities typically found in properties at this price point. Rather, Mr. Southwell said, “you’re paying for the nostalgia of the home and the uniqueness. There’s just not another one down the road.”

The front entrance, beneath the original Salvation Army sign, opens to the main hall, which serves as a combined living, dining and office space. The 20-foot, ornamental plaster ceilings are original to the hall. The owners covered the floors with engineered American oak.

The kitchen, across the back of the hall, sits on what used to be the stage, and is elevated over the living area, Mr. Southwell said. A long, granite-topped island has seating for four. Hanging above is an antique sled that now serves as a pot rack. A commercial-grade gas range and a double refrigerator are on the back wall.

Two sets of French doors on one side of the hall open onto the garden courtyard, which has a wood deck, stone terrace, fish pond, and a built-in gas barbecue. The garden is also reachable through a pair of iron gates fronting the street.

A wing added behind the hall has a lower-level main suite and two bedrooms above. The main suite includes a large bathroom with radiant heat beneath porcelain flooring, a double vanity with two vessel sinks, a walk-in shower and a round soaking tub. The adjoining office space, which can be opened to the courtyard, could be converted to a fourth bedroom, Mr. Southwell said.

Two upper-level bedrooms, one of which has a small balcony overlooking the courtyard, share a large bathroom.

The property occupies a corner lot on Carlisle Street, a block from Norton Street, the retail center and restaurant row of Leichhardt, Mr. Southwell said. The suburb, about eight miles inland from Australia’s southeast coast, has strong Italian roots dating to the late 1800s, and was long known for its authentic Italian cuisine. While the restaurant offerings are now more diverse, the annual Norton Street Italian Festa continues to celebrate the area’s Italian heritage every October.

Leichhardt is less than 15 minutes from Sydney’s central business district and about 25 minutes from Sydney Kingsford Smith Airport, depending on the time of day.

The housing market in greater Sydney — the capital of New South Wales and Australia’s largest metro area, with about 5.3 million residents — was “in a state of increasing positive momentum,” said Louis Christopher, the managing director at SQM Research, a Sydney-based investment research house. “Prices were rising at an annual rate of 7 to 9 percent.”

That momentum, which followed a couple of years of sagging prices nationally, came to a halt with the pandemic. In the second quarter of 2020, seven of Australia’s eight state capitals saw a drop in residential property prices, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, with Melbourne (-2.3 percent) and Sydney (-2.2 percent) registering the biggest decreases. Prices, however, were still 6.2 percent higher year over year.

In Sydney, some centrally located properties saw value declines of 8 to 10 percent, as buyers’ tastes shifted to less dense areas, Mr. Southwell said. However, since the Australian government began loosening Covid-19 restrictions in May, prices in Sydney have begun to rise again, if slightly, by 0.3 to 0.7 percent, he said.

A two-bedroom apartment in Sydney’s central business district that would have sold for about 1.4 million Australian dollars ($1.02 million) before the pandemic now sells for closer to 1.2 million ($876,000), Mr. Christopher said.



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