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Buyers come out of the shadows for homes full of sunlight

Properties with abundant natural light are attracting an ever-growing price premium. As urban density increases and buildings - from revamped and extended cottages to new apartment towers - get taller, access to sunlight is playing a pivotal role in real estate pricing. The price gap between properties with good natural light and those with poor light is only likely to widen. Why? Because sunlight counts, especially in winter when the days are shorter and the sun sits lower in the sky. The trend to urban consolidation is also making it easier for buildings to lose natural light. Higher energy costs have kicked in, too. Real Estate Institute of Victoria spokesman Robert Larocca says buyers look at the natural light qualities of houses and units very differently today compared with 10 years ago. "The importance of a house being sensitive to the climate and reducing your utility bills through the use of sensitive design has become much more accepted in the past decade" he says. "That is a flow-through from government requiring five and six stars [energy-efficiency ratings] in new buildings". Real estate agents often use the line, "Preferred north-facing rear position". This is an emotional appeal to buyers, but concrete evidence is emerging that having a backyard bathed in sunshine adds a large amount of value to houses. The Carlton North-based buyer advocacy company Secret Agent has looked at several inner-city areas with high sales turnover and consistent sales of period houses to see whether a clear correlation can be established between average house prices and the orientation of the backyard. The firm's hunch was that north-facing backyards would yield higher prices. It proved to be spot-on. REIV sales data for April, May and June this year shows that of 43 properties sold in Brunswick, those with north-facing backyards had the highest average price of $858,000. Properties with west-facing yards had the lowest median price, $633,000. Of 58 sales analysed in Richmond, properties with north-facing yards attracted an average price of $1.05 million, nearly 17 per cent more than houses with a south-facing backyard. In Hawthorn, west-facing backyards had the highest selling prices, followed closely by north-facing yards. A north-facing orientation captures full light, although a north-westerly orientation can also do the job. Secret Agent founder Paul Osborne says many buyers continue to attribute a house's value to factors such as the land size or the number of bathrooms, rather than to a property's orientation. "There are good indicators that show buyers are prepared to invest more in a property when it has the light, think this is a change that has happened over the past 10 years. It has become more important". Source: