Architecture and Renovation, Brisbane's sales market, Highgate Hill, Woolloongabba

Look for the uglies! Affordable Brisbane real estate

Life in the ‘burbs isn’t for everyone. The trimmed hedges, rolling front lawns and brick lowsets may be perfect for some but, for others, they’re a nightmare of endless mowing and maintenance. If the idea of a 40-minute commute sucks the life right out of you, here are some tips on finding an affordable home in the city.

Look for the uglies. Real estate is like a high school dance and the pretty ones do go first, and for higher prices. Why? Because most of us can’t use our imaginations (or are too lazy). Simple, really simple, renos and 5 tins of paint can make a massive difference to the purchase price. We’ve seen $3,000 spruce-ups add $30,000 to value – and more often than you’d think. If your housewarming needs to be a cocktail affair with the place looking schmick you mightn’t agree – but it can be just as much fun to invite friends over for a ‘paint and pizza’ night!

Brisbane’s inner city is full of brick apartment buildings from the 1980s and earlier. These were the days when only investors bought in the city – and they weren’t winning awards for their stunning architecture. In many cases the buildings look tired and there are no ensuites, lifts or gyms. On the plus side, they often have big rooms and great locations – and the renovation tasks are manageable on a budget. Think carpet, paint, window dressings and the kitchen when you can afford it.

Try Highgate Hill, Paddington, Bowen Hills (an area that’s got an enormous future) or Spring Hill. Old high-rises may not be fashionable property but they’re almost always close to transport and shops. When you get to sell there’ll be a ready market of investors and first home buyers – regardless of the ups and downs that might slow sales of other property.

Train-spotter? You will save big money if you buy alongside one of our many train lines, and if you pick the line (avoiding the freight routes) it can be okay. Main roads are another option but in our experience this noise is more constant and harder to live with. With either rail or roads it will take you longer to sell when the time comes as your pool of willing buyers is that bit smaller.

Those tight-budgeted house buyers needn’t give up either. Some of the ‘transition’ suburbs like the ‘Gabba, East Brisbane and Kelvin Grove have a reasonable number of affordable homes. You might have to live near a panel beater or a wholesaler for a time but this is Brisbane’s inner city and change will come sooner than you think.

# We wrote this article for the real estate pages of