My wife Sue and I bought a small (seemingly) commercial building on busy Gladstone Road, Highgate Hill, in 2002. We had been looking to move up from my home-based architecture practice and from the casual rooms that Sue rented in different suburbs for a while. One day Sue came home and said to me that she just noticed a small building on Gladstone Road for sale. We enquired and found it had been on the market for quite a while. We must have driven past this place a hundred times before we noticed that it was for sale. Suddenly in a traffic jam, Sue looked sideways, saw it, fell in love with it and demanded it.
We bought it without hesitation ($182,000 in 2002), fitted it out for both our practices and moved in our shared work accommodation. It felt great to be (thinking we were) investing in our financial future (real estate) and developing our practices to the next levels. It was a great move. Gladstone Road has high exposure, and even though Sue’s practice relies more on referrals than walk-ins, it gave her a credible foundation for her practice. My practice did benefit from the exposure. We did OK…..put three children through private schools and kept them in ‘clubbing’ money through university (but thankfully they all paid for their own tuition).
We both worked there in our practices for 13 years. Yes, we did (and still do) spend 24/7 in each other’s company – many marvel at that. We would still be there perhaps at our stand-alone building if our eldest daughter hadn’t married and delivered their first baby boy……. roughly 2000 km away in Melbourne in 2015. We naturally wanted lots of contact with our new grandson. For me it was not hard to take time to visit Melbourne, but Sue’s practice relies on reliability for the patients and for the doctors to refer on patients. So for the first time in her over 20 years as a physio she needed to arrange locums to help cover while she was visiting Melbourne. This went very well and Sue really enjoyed the experience of others working with her – so much that she decided to expand.
This couldn’t happen in our Gladstone Road property, so we looked for another building in the locality. At this same time, the house next door went on the market. I could see it’s potential as an expanded physio practice for Sue and had design ideas for the building to preserve its Queenslander style, while modernising it and certainly soundproofing it. We arranged to have a pre-lodgement meeting with the Brisbane City Council as the house was zoned residential, but the Council were adamant that they wanted the house to remain a house and so our plans were dashed for that site. Sue was disappointed and went for a drive through West End and Highgate Hill looking at other properties for sale and on the way back came across a shop for sale in Hampstead Road – which again she fell in love with.
We bought in Hampstead Road again without hesitation, fitted it out and both moved in – again sharing the accommodation for both our practices. Gladstone Road was retained, re-fitted and continued in its new role as part of Sue’s practice for fitness classes, yoga and dance sessions. From being a sole practitioner, Sue went to employing 12 people in a matter of months. Fortunately, she had the patient supply to manage this and her practice continues to grow. Sue’s classes continued for three years, but the workload for Sue became unmanageable and we decided to close the classes and sell Gladstone Road.
We placed the Gladstone Road property on the market in October 2018 and had visions of a quick sale. We did have several offers (which weren’t all suitable) and three contracts which did not go through for lack of finance (following the Banking Royal Commission, lending was tricky to get). The property attracted significant interest (we did have around 50 enquiries in its 5 months on the market) but its biggest detraction, for commercial buyers, is its ‘character residential’ zoning. While Sue and I moved straight in following the purchase in 2002 and used it commercially, based on ‘continued commercial use’ (since 1956), we couldn’t find anyone with enough insight to do the same. We had ‘commercial’ buyer interest, but the ‘residential’ zone worried those and we had ‘residential’ buyer interest (it is in the Brisbane State High catchment) but its ‘butcher’s shop’ appearance worried those lacking ‘vision’.
It had been a very frustrating few months………