The old property adage of ‘buying the worst house on the best street’ has stead true for many Australians in their property. However, what most people really ascertain from this is to buy the cheapest house on the most expensive street.
But what actually makes the best street?
The easy and obvious answer to this is the price. But the price is not what we desire but rather what it represents. It is the dollar figure that is assigned to the end result of our underlying desires when we look at property.
Aesthetics and Design
What is really at the centre of the best street are the aesthetics. What is beautiful, what we desire to look at, or live in. We choose a suburb based on our notions of accessibility, utility, and proximity to amenities.
Looking from outside of the streetscape what we see is the location. The best streets usually occupy a location that holds a scarce and desirable characteristic such as a view, or topographically located on top of a hill, or waterfront.
Within the streetscape we can see that the space is separated between public and private space. Within the scope of private space, the occupiers of a street have direct control over the design of their fences, front yards and houses that make up each property along the street.
An important architectural consideration is the natural flow and shared character between houses, fences and the street. Fundamentally, what we desire is order, symmetry, balance and repetition. When there is no order, it looks chaotic. We are naturally inclined to look for patterns and if a pattern cannot ensue, we generally try to move pieces around to establish a pattern. Think about the need to correct a crooked picture frame. Excessive order can be problematic as it is overly repetitive, bleak and boring, which loses a our attention.
The perfect combination tends to be a balance between variety and order, ideally the result should be the ability to keep a person’s attention and intrigue while providing calm through the consistency and predictability of the built environment. This is the reason why Paddington is so desirable despite it’s lack of practicality.
Let’s look at the public space component that makes up the street. Desirable streets tend to have significant tree canopy which provide adequate shade during the summer months and beautiful leafage in Autumn and Spring.
Streets that tend to be slightly wider with adequate street parking but shorter in length are desirable. This is because less ‘street’ to occupy adding to the scarcity value of the street. Short streets tend not to be major thoroughfares for the movement of vehicles and there use is only really isolated by the occupants of the street. This limits both noise and air pollution and facilitate a community interaction between neighbours as it is much easier to cross the road and engage each other . The shape of the street is not a major contributing factor but a winding road adds intrigue and beauty.
Non-physical components can be more difficult to establish solely by looking at a street, but I believe that these are probably the most important factors providing the glue between public and private space. A typical consideration for buyers in any purchase is privacy, but I believe the level of privacy that we think we want is not necessarily want we really need.
The level of privacy that completely inhibits the natural interaction between neighbours creates a dead space. A street which facilitates human interaction between neighbours creates a community. People who belong to a community feel obligated to uphold that community, whether its proper garden maintenance, mowing the front lawn or trimming hedges. Streets that have well kept gardens, mowed lawns and beautiful façade are desirable. Perhaps there is a touch of ‘keeping up with the Jones’s’ where neighbourly competition maintains the upkeep of the street.
Careful street selection is imperative as many properties along a street measure their value upon a recent sale which sets the benchmark price in their street. Through this process the value of your property increases through association regardless if you have completed renovations, or done nothing at all. In the case of the best street, the value generated is always more than the sum of its components.