Adding a Third Storey to a Block of Units


I own a block of 4 Units in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney. It is a 2 storey double brick block built in approx 1930's. It consists of 1 2 bedroom Unit and 3 x 1 bedroom units. It is suituated on a large block of land with 5 garages. Subject to council approval I want to add a third storey penthouse and add a bedroom to each unit. Has anyone done a conversion like this? What was your experience? Thanks
Just read an article about this in the Apr 2008 API. Some guy took of the roof of an apartment and added a penthouse - the penthouse alone was valued more than what the builder paid for the entire block originally.
There is a thread in the SS forum here about this very thing - but I just can't seem to find it. It was maybe up to 12 months ago max. I think one of the Valuers on here posted some links on as well. One was a Bali-type affair but others were glass & steel & looked very good.

I am also looking to go down this path in the future with a block of four I have in Sydney.

Before entertaining flipping the lid, you need to go to council and discuss your intention with their town planners (unless of course you've already done this).

You need to ascertain the zoning, height limits, Gross Floor Area and Floor to Space Ratio allowed. Even if all of these stack up in your favour, it wouldn't hurt to try and find precedent (nearby) where your intended end result already exists.

If you strike a wall with council as far as zoning, the precedent will be even more useful to you should you wish to jump those hurdles.

Needless to say, an engineers report will be needed to establish that the remaining box will take another level. Usually shouldn't be an issue if going brick veneer on top or using lightweight rendered claddings or similar.

Fire rating will likely need to be brought up to speed with all the remaining units (assuming they don't already comply) as once you tread this path you will have opened up a can of worms with council.

Do you intend keeping them all for rental or doing a strata and selling off some (or all)?

Have you spoken to anyone at council or private town planners or draftsperson or architect about your intention?

I will also follow this keenly as it interests me. I'm not ready to go down this path right now, however optimising the land that's already there is a good move.

Good luck
Hey Michael

Thanks for the advice! I have some contacts in council as I am active in local Precinct activities. I will push the envelope in terms of FSR somewhat but figure I have a good case. Yes I do need to find other examples in the area so I might have to simply do a bit of a drive around on my scooter and see if I can see any other who have either converted the roof area .. or if I can figure added another storey. I wonder if I could do a search on Council past developments!! I have great views out to the north and east (sea) so it should be spectacular. I live in one of the units in the block at the mo but am intending to live in the top penthouse myself and then rent out my unit plus the other 3. I will finance it by doing this. I do not intend to sell any of them, I would loose my monopoly / control of the property. The units are all strata titled but the allocation would need to change. I pay too much land tax and by increasing my personal allocation of the land this will alleviate this somewhat.

I have spoken to an architect I trust looking for ideas. He too is looking for other precedents. I have also considered knocking down the whole lot but have figured it would cost too much and I would have to sell some of it and it would be difficult to get the amount I have on it now

Thanks for your interest

Monopoly fan

I also like full control. :D

Mine are on one title although they were strata approved when I bought. I never registered the strata to reduce outgoings. I have no intention of selling them off one by one.

I am looking at adding another two 2x1 or another three 1x1 when I go up another level.

Yours sounds like it's going to yield you a schmick new penthouse with sun and views :)

Would be really keen to hear how it all develops, so be sure to keep this thread alive or start another when you're ready to go. I am sure others would be similarly keen to hear of your project's progress.

I came to Sydney to spread the land tax love around....... I am serving a significant Victorian SRO sentence :p, so leaving them in one line was a given.

Could you please explain your comment......... "The units are all strata titled but the allocation would need to change. I pay too much land tax and by increasing my personal allocation of the land this will alleviate this somewhat."

Do you mean that when you complete the build on the new penthouse, it's component will be treated as a PPOR and hence reduce the proportional investment units' components?
Unit Allocation on the Strata Plan

Thanks for your interest Michael. You are a great sounding board for me. I will try to keep this thread alive but feel free to contact me should I get preoccupied. Real Estate is only one of my fiddles!

When this block was strata titled in 1996 the previous owner allocated each of the 4 units with the same space. However the unit I live in, my principal place of residence, is a 2 Br with a double garage. (The others are 1 br with one garage) Therefore my principle place of residence has a larger share of the property but this is NOT detailed on the plan. When land tax is calculated here your PPOR is exempt. So my PPOR is smaller and my investment units are higher. Hence higher land tax! As I mentioned this block is on a large piece of land and being in East in Sydney attracts a high land cost. So I am paying thru the nose!!!

I will rectify this by altering the Strata Plan when the new residence is build and make sure it is correct. I am thinking my proportion of the property will be arouund 33 - 40%.. now it is 25%. I also have another property at Bronte Beach which adds to it but it is in a block of 12 and the land component is much smaller.

BTW. Fire regulations are a worry but i understand you can get away with fire rated ceilings and doors and do not have to replace floors. It will be a large renovation and I will need to keep a handle on costs.
Dano ;)
Finally Moving

I am finally moving on this and am about to put my DA into council to develop the building and block.
I will change the 4 x 1 bedroom units into 2 x 3brs and 2 by 2 bedrooms. I cannot build another level on top but have decided instead to do attic conversions..hence the 2 x 3brs. Another building will be built at the rear of the property to make another 2 x 2brs. So in total 6 units. Am looking for a mentor!. Any help appreciated.
Hi Dano,

there is one site which was converted a few years ago on the corner of Albert Ave/Pacific Hwy Chatswood.

Not sure of the situation with provision of parking however this site is near station/bus routes so a concession was probably granted.

It may be worth getting a planner involved to look at other angles to approach the development.

Also, with regards to the actual build, it may pay to get a BCA consultant involved at this stage (if you have plans) to advise what needs to be done for fire compliance.

Thanks for your note
We are already at the Pre DA stage. We will present that to council in October. I have a planner who has done a property potential report .. but would like another point of view from someone who has renovated an older style block of units in Sydney. Thanks again.
Pre DA

Our PRE DA with the SEPP 65 committee went well. They were not concerned about us exceeding the FSR for the development, if fact they suggested that we go slightly bigger and the architect show some more "flair". They thought the neighbours had exceeded the FSR markedly already ... and so should I. We meet the council officers next and they may not be as generous.
This is Chris Gray's bread and butter. He's a BA in the eastern suburbs who buys unit blocks in syndicates with his clients and builds an additional unit on the too floor. He recently completed one on Marine pd in maroubra and has done a few in coogee.
Your main issue will be your engineering report.

The initial foundations would of been designed for what is exactly sitting there.

Even then, most 1930's homes etc are on pretty primitive footings, sometimes just brick on dirt, sometimes just on bluestone blocks.

Chances are you will have to underpin the footings if you are adding another story on a 1930's brick veneer. Meaning you will have to get machines in to bore in under your existing footings and fill it with concrete, for the size of block you are describing, that's about $50-100k before you start extending up.
Thanks for your comment.
My engineer has inspected the building and as long as I use light weight materials for the top floor there is no issue with the foundations.. in fact we have just removed the old slate roof that was stored in the roof cavity... it weighed a ton!
Chris Gray

Yes I know Chris Gray and watch his show on Sky news... he initially gave me the idea about extending the back of the unit block. We meet the Council officers for our Pre - DA in a week or so. Lets see what they say!
Dano, let me know if you want a builder contact. The bloke I'm thinking of just finished that big reno (reskinning the outside, enlarged balconies etc) on the yellow art deco block on the main drag at the north end of Bondi Beach.
Thanks for your suggestion. After I get finance I will put the project out to tender. I would love to have some recommendations of builders who work in the local area and are familiar with older buildings:)