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    Selling architect-designed homes: real estate agency that markets on architectural merit not location

    Nathan Johnson

     “Experiencing and living in an architect-designed residence brings another dimension to one’s life”.

    This was the catalyst for the conception of Sydney-based "Modern House Estate Agents", recently responsible for the sale of works by some of Australia’s finest architects including Harry Seidler, Glenn Murcutt, Bruce Rickard, Richard Leplastrier, Ken Woolley and Peter Stutchbury. 

    Britain’s Marcus Lloyd-Jones conceived Modern House real estate agency in 2009 on the back of what he considered the “communication gulf” between buyers and sellers in the Australian residential real estate market. Lloyd-Jones was shocked upon arrival to our shores by the way real estate agencies were advertising architect-designed homes when putting them to market.

    “When I moved to Australia in 2009, I was shocked at how little importance was given to the design of a house in the real estate pages – even by leading agencies,” remembers Lloyd-Jones.

    “I was even more alarmed at how many agents simply talk about how to capitalize on land value... so I started Modern House with the specific goal of representing houses with a story to tell - which are part of a brief but rich architectural heritage.”

    Angophara House (above) by Richard Leplastrier and Walsh House (below) by Glen Murcutt were sold by Modern House to architecture enthusiasts. Images: Michael Nicholson and Anthony Browell.

    Since conception, Modern House has successfully sold residences designed by the likes of Seidler, Leplastrier, Rickard and Woolley, on a marketing model that focusses on the home’s architectural history and design merit rather than its location and redevelopment value. 

    “Basically, as lovers of design, our rule of thumb is that if a house inspires us, we’ll represent it for sale,” says Lloyd-Jones.

    “Specifically we look for architect-designed houses. To date, about half of what we’ve sold have been mid-century Modernist designs, the other half have been more contemporary.”

    “People say ‘location, location, location.’ They never say ‘design, design, design.’ I finally got why architects spend as long as doctors getting an education. They do something really magical. They don’t save lives but they enhance them.”
    Tim Read, owner of the Burridge-Read Residence designed by David Boyle.

    Lloyd-Jones says that architects are rarely involved in the selling process, mostly because of the vintage of the majority of the houses in the Modern House portfolio, although he does cherish one instance which involved one of Australia’s most famous residences:

    “A very special exception has been the Gissing House by Harry Seidler, which we sold in 2014,” says   Lloyd-Jones.

    “We were very fortunate to have the interest and support of Penelope Seidler in helping to us understand the importance of this house, as well as the potential of playing a role through Harry Seidler and Associates in any future works done by the new owners. With contemporary houses, we would generally be in touch with the owner, but once the listing is secured, we would then have discussions with the architect.”

    Above and Below: Gissing House by Harry Seidler was recently sold by Modern House with the aid of Penelope Seidler. Images: Max Dupain and Chis Colls.

    Lloyd-Jones says that he owes much of his business to relationships formed with the Australian Institute of Architects and Sydney Living Museums who respect his approach and offer referrals to those seeking his type of service.

    He also notes that his agency involves a research program that seeks out potential buyers based on their enthusiasm for good and rare design.

     “Often they are people who will want to preserve the house as is - simply for the joy of living in ‘good design' - or they may wish to work with an architect to repair and sensitively update, without destroying its character,” says Lloyd-Jones.

    “While we can never make that promise to owners, it’s what we look for in conversations with prospective purchasers.”

    Listings on Modern House include images, floor plans, words from the architect, history of the building and its location as well as the usual real estate specifications. Images: Jennifer Soo and Sharyn Cairns Photography. Plans from the architect.

    Currently on the market is Katoomba House by Smith & Tzannes, Savimaki House by Leith Bartlett and Stafford House by David Stafford, among others. 

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