Building a house on a battleaxe block might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but if you think about it, living in a rear block is perfect if you want privacy and exclusivity. Some might say that it is difficult to build on a uniquely-shaped location, and they are right—it is challenging, but they never said anything about it being impossible.
A battleaxe block is the rear part of a subdivided block. You can access the lot through a narrow road or driveway, usually shared by the battleaxe block owner and the front property. Because of their location, battleaxe blocks are generally cheaper to purchase but can be more costly to build on. Overall, battleaxe blocks can be an excellent investment, especially if you choose a custom builder that specialises in building on complex blocks.
This piece of land might have more access challenges than a standard block, but that won’t be a problem if your builder is experienced and understands exactly how to approach the site. The right custom builder can also help design a fantastic rear strata property designed to make the most of the lot’s unique attributes.
In this article, you will find everything you need to know about building and developing property on a battleaxe block.
What is a Battleaxe Block?
A ‘battleaxe block’ is a common term in the building and real estate industries. Essentially, it refers to a block of land located behind another lot, which often has an existing house or building on it. Usually, you can access the rear lot through a narrow lane or driveway.
A battleaxe block is also known as a rear strata, a rear lot or a ‘house behind a house’. It’s frequently the result of subdividing a larger suburban block, and has become a very popular real estate investment strategy in major cities.
Why Is It Called a Battleaxe Block?
It is called a battleaxe block primarily because of its shape. If you look at it from the top using a drone or your smartphone’s map application, entire property is an inverted L shape. Many think the lot’s profile closely resembles a battleaxe.
Some people also see the shape of a flag: the driveway is the flag pole, and the flag is the property itself. For this reason, battleaxe block is also sometimes referred to as a hatchet or flagpole block.
If you think about it, the term battleaxe block is an apt term to describe not just how it looks but also represents the “battle” of building a lovely home on this uniquely-shaped piece of land. And as in any battle, what matters is having the right people to give you advice, ensuring the strategy is a winning one.
Why Are There So Many Battleaxe Blocks in Perth?
In all of Australia’s major cities, population density has been rising and demand for property has skyrocketed. Both investors and would-be homeowners find it increasingly difficult to secure a parcel of land in a good location.
If you’ve ever been in that situation, then you know that buying land in popular or ‘blue chip’ suburbs is definitely a challenge. In cases where an owner decides to sell, prices are definitely sky-high, and those who’d like to develop or build their dream home face the additional costs of knocking down an existing house.
However, given the large block size of older properties in Perth, many owners and developers have chosen to subdivide these large lots, introducing new vacant land to the market in otherwise bought-out suburbs.
Subdivision is a great way to transform an unused backyard into an investment: a brand new lot ready to develop or sell in a sought-after area. A driveway provides access to the rear block, which may be sold as a vacant lot. Alternatively, battleaxe blocks are frequently developed to add extra value before they go to market, whether that involves a ‘house behind a house’ or multiple and grouped dwellings such as townhouses.
It’s an ingenious way to make use of extra space while introducing fresh properties to a very crowded real estate market.
What Is the Difference Between a Battleaxe Block and a Rear Strata?
In the real estate or building industry, you will commonly hear terms such as “rear strata,” “rear strata home,” “battleaxe development,” and more. It can get very confusing for a first-time property investor or home buyer.
A rear strata and battleaxe block are essentially the same thing. They are both the rear property of a subdivided lot. However, the main difference is that a rear strata doesn’t necessarily need the ‘handle’ or driveway access from the front.
Unlike a battleaxe block, a rear strata may have other access points from the side or rear, while a battleaxe block is limited to the shared driveway. It is good to know the definition of these terms, especially if you are looking to buy property. It also gives you a much better understanding of a block’s potential when discussing real estate with your builder or realtor.
Freehold Title vs. Strata Subdivision Battleaxe Blocks
When discussing its key features, we’ve mentioned that the driveway of a battleaxe block is usually shared by both the front and rear homeowners. However, that is not always the case. There are two ways property developers can subdivide a battleaxe block:
- Strata title subdivision is where the driveway is a shared area between the two property owners.
- Freehold title subdivision makes the driveway a separate piece of land.
Strata subdivision and freehold titles are not much different when it comes to day-to-day life. Still, freehold titles can be preferred because owners do not have joint/shared land ownership. However, strata subdivision is comparatively easier to create because the legalities and regulations allow a bit more flexibility.
It’s best to consult with your local council or a builder experienced with subdivisions to determine what type of subdivision title is ideal for your development project.
How is a Battleaxe Block Measured?
It is essential to know how a battleaxe block is measured, especially if you are looking into investing in one. That’s because calculating the area will then indicate what kind of building you’re able to construct. This section will give you the general information you need to calculate the size of your battleaxe block.
When property developers measure battleaxe blocks, they measure three parts of the block: the effective area, the access leg area, and the total area.
We discuss each below:
- Effective Area. The effective area is the main parcel of the land that you can use to build your home. This area does not include the handle or access leg. If you are talking to a real estate agent or a property owner selling you a battleaxe lot, make sure that you clarify with them and ask them for the effective area’s measurements without the access leg. Many people get easily enticed by the idea of buying a 500-square meter lot, not knowing that 20% of the lot is just the access leg. Finding out the effective area will give you a better indication of how much space you have to work with.
- Access Leg Area, a.k.a. the Driveway. The ‘access leg area’ is the driveway, or the “handle” of the battleaxe. If you purchase a battleaxe block, you cannot utilise this area for building – it’s only an access corridor.
- Total Area. The total area is the entire lot, combining the access leg and effective site. For first-time buyers and investors, it’s essential to make sure your data doesn’t stop at the total area – you may not be realising that a chunk of the entire area is for driveway access only.
Sellers and agents should always be clear on what their size calculations are really indicating. If you are the buyer in this situation, be sure you get the facts on which portion is the effective area and design your building plans to suit this portion of the block.
What are the Pros & Cons of a Battleaxe Block?
Depending on your preference, battleaxe blocks may or may not be the ideal piece of land for you. Some people value privacy over street frontage, which is one of the most significant advantages of owning a battleaxe block. But some may not be too appreciative of living in the rear of someone else’s home – it all depends on your lifestyle.
To help you make a better decision, we’ve listed down the notable benefits and drawbacks of building and living on a battleaxe block.
Pros of a Battleaxe Block:
- If you enjoy peace, quiet, and privacy, a battleaxe block is an ideal option for you. Not only does it have additional privacy from the road, but its “inner” location also provides added security. Where front yards are usually exposed to the street, you may be able to create your own oasis with private front and rear outdoor living spaces.
- You can often purchase battleaxe blocks without existing structures. This allows you to save money when building a home from scratch, without the need for demolition costs. For investors, it means the profit margin will also be higher when you decide to sell in the future, sidestepping the need to demolish-and-rebuild.
- A rare opportunity to buy property in urban areas. Subdivided rear blocks give people a chance to own property in cities and neighbourhoods where land for sale is scarce. Both owner-occupiers and investors will jump at the chance to secure a new lot in a high-demand area.
- You can orient your home in more ways without the street frontage dictating where the facade should be. You’d think you’d be limited in terms of home designs for battleaxe blocks, but local councils are also more relaxed when approving creative facades and unique home designs for battleaxe block properties.
- It makes your property very safe and child-friendly. Depending on the agreement set by owners of the front lot, kids can use the long driveway as a place to practice riding their bikes, play catch, and more—without the risk of playing out in the street.
- Low-maintenance living without expansive gardens. Battleaxe block homes give you the lock-and-leave lifestyle of a townhouse or villa while still allowing more space for a fully fledged house. Throw in the additional privacy and space independence compared to apartment living and urban couples or families will find a rear strata home an absolute gem.
- A battleaxe block is usually cheaper than a lot with street frontage. This enables you to direct more of your budget into building your dream home (or adding value to your investment). You may also be able to afford to buy in a more desirable area, with long-term lifestyle benefits. Many people fear battleaxe homes will fetch a lower price when it’s time to sell, but even if that’s so, the out of pocket expenses are lower and the profit margin is equivalent.
- If you purchase a battleaxe block with a freehold title, you won’t have to be present in strata meetings. Compared to the inconveniences involved in grouped or multiple dwelling situations – including shared landscaping, body corporate dramas and more – a battleaxe lot gives you relative independence. This also means there is no need for joint property insurance.
Cons of a Battleaxe Block:
- One of the most significant drawbacks of owning a battleaxe block is the shared driveway. If you don’t have a sound agreement with the other property owner, the driveway could become a source of dispute. However, in most cases, both parties can agree to use the space for parking cars, skating, cycling, etc without incident. Maintenance for the driveway area will also have to be agreed upon, depending on your title arrangements.
- Another challenge to building on a battleaxe block is its narrow access road. It may take more time and more trips for builders to transport and store building materials, adding to the construction cost. Fortunately, some companies specialise in building on complex and challenging blocks, and are well-equipped to handle these site access concerns.
- The cost of installing utility connections is generally higher, depending on the property’s distance from the main road. It is ideal to be ready for these extra expenses when building on a battleaxe block. However, these tend to be a one-off cost and don’t affect ongoing utility costs.
- Drainage requires attention and possible professional consulting. Without consulting engineers, you may experience problems with your drainage system if you’re building on a former backyard. Most companies that specialise in building on difficult blocks will take care of this problem.
- Building on a battleaxe block will require more patience and understanding. As council rules and regulations vary when it comes to battleaxe blocks, you can expect more back-and-forth with town planners and your local council in the design phase. Again, there are experts in building on rear strata properties to help you through the approvals process.
- Because of its distance from the street, it will take longer for you to take out the garbage, check the mail, or other day-to-day tasks. Some people may see this as both an advantage and a disadvantage, depending on whether they’re keen on a bit more exercise! But for those who are elderly or have a physical disability, the added distance may be more of a challenge.
- You may not have space for a full lawn, depending on the size of your block. However, you can still build a courtyard in the front or back—which is great for people who prefer a more private outdoor space. Yard space is still more generous than a typical townhouse development, though, and if building multiple stories, a balcony or raised deck can add to your outdoor living space.
- If you have visitors or parcel deliveries, your home might be challenging to find, especially at night. However, it is also an advantage if you enjoy privacy and extra security. You may just have to add a few details to the ‘delivery instructions’ section of your UberEats order.
Are Battleaxe Blocks Hard to Sell?
Battleaxe blocks have a reputation for being hard to sell, but modern investors find these types of properties a very worthwhile development project in practice. When a beautifully developed battleaxe block is available in a competitive blue-chip suburb, it’s unlikely there’ll be any shortage of willing buyers.
This is why battleaxe blocks make an excellent investment – they can be very profitable, depending on the neighbourhood and the property you are building on. Not all people will immediately see the advantages of owning a battleaxe block. However, if carefully explained to them, buyers and potential owners will soon see that it is quite a diamond in the rough.
In addition, because battleaxe blocks are cheaper to buy, you can channel more resources in building the best property you can imagine. If you can build a luxury home on an affordable piece of land, your investment is achieved with less out-of-pocket expenses and more equity in a shorter time frame.
Keep in mind that building on a battleaxe block does have its challenges, but by seeking help from builders who specialise in this niche, the results can be both spectacular and profitable. With the right custom builder, you can build a desirable home with features that can catch people’s attention and add value to your investment—which brings us to the next section.
What Can I Build On A Battleaxe Block?
There is no denying that building on a battleaxe block requires some problem-solving. The narrow access-way compared to full frontage blocks creates challenges transporting bulky material, and smaller block sizes make it difficult to store building materials on-site. Plus, because the lot is further away from the street, installing utilities for a new build will be more expensive.
However, the hardest part is out of the way at the design stage—and when well-executed, the extra costs are far lower than the amount of equity you can get on your investment.
State and local governments are quite positive about additional housing capacity being added to high-demand high-density areas, meaning it is generally easier to get building approval on a battleaxe block. There are plenty of fantastic options for building on a battleaxe block, and with an experienced custom builder, you’ll be able to translate your dream home into a viable rear strata block home design.
Besides, councils are more flexible with the design restrictions for houses on battleaxe block properties—meaning you can go for a more unique look. If you have a great vision for a creative home design but the architectural style is a bit too ‘out there’ for your local town planners, you’ll have more success building it on a battleaxe block without the direct street frontage.
Choosing the right house plan for your battleaxe block will depend on key factors such as:
Size and dimensions of the block – depending on the square footage and shape of your block, you may need a double-story home to provide enough living space, or a single-storey may suit you just fine.
Orientation of the block (ie. what direction it faces) – battleaxe block homes need to be designed to consider sunlight and privacy with other properties in close proximity. An experienced small lot builder can make the most of the block’s orientation to give you the best living experience.
The developer’s end goals – specifications and overall floor plan will vary depending on whether you plan to live in the house, sell the completed home or keep the property as a rental. For the latter two, it may be all about maximising the value of the completed home – as a big lifestyle focus and great features can have a huge impact on the sale price of a battleaxe block home.
Are Single or Double Storey Homes Better For A Battleaxe Block?
You can build either a single or double-storey structure on a battleaxe block. It all comes down to your preference and living requirements. Some people with bigger families could use the space of a double-storey home, particularly if the block size is smaller. You may also wish to have a garage on the ground level and build the residence above.
At the same time, smaller families and couples can live comfortably in a single-storey rear strata home. If the effective area in a battleaxe block is big enough, you may even fit a single-story home with a garage. These rear blocks come in all sizes, many of which are bigger and wider than ‘normal’ street fronting lots in the local area.
There are so many possibilities when it comes to designing a house for a battleaxe block. , and there are many experts you can consult if you cannot decide what you want or how you can develop a battleaxe block.
Remember, even if your lot and driveway is relatively narrow, you shouldn’t have to compromise on quality and design.
Battleaxe Block Home Designs
Ultimately, the best battleaxe block home designs are created especially for your block, not selected from a catalogue. Searching for house plans can be great to find inspiration, but the best results will come from working with a custom builder or designer to suit both the block and your personal requirements.
This is the key when it comes to getting the most out of your battleaxe block – as an owner-occupier or as an investor.
However, there are a few suggestions that are suitable for many battleaxe lots and rear stratas:
- Courtyard To Front Homes. These designs concentrate the outdoor space at the front of the house rather than the back, giving you more expansive views along the driveway and towards the street.
- Double-Storey Hamptons Style Homes. The levels of the Hamptons style lends itself easily to small blocks, integrating a garage and even outdoor deck or balcony space into a cohesive and trendy home design
- Duplex or Triplex Developments. Duplex or triplex homes are the perfect size if you have a small family, live alone or with a partner and want to make some extra income from your property By building grouped dwellings on a battleaxe block, you maximise the equity in the block and have the opportunity for ongoing rental income.
- Modern/Minimalist Style Homes. This is a great design to go for if you’re looking into maximising a narrow space, keeping the lines clean and minimising any clash with surrounding architectural styles. These homes are also typically more eco-friendly, using passive design principles to maximise sunlight and energy efficiency.
With a battleaxe block, you can get more creative when designing your home. However, it is still better to consult with a professional building firm that specialises in difficult blocks. Another factor you want to consider are the codes and councils that will approve the design you want—which is less restrictive for battleaxe blocks.
As an added suggestion, some homeowners subdivide their home into a battleaxe block, build a duplex in the rear strata, and rent out the front house and one duplex to maximize their earnings. This all depends on your preferences, but it is a great way to invest and boost your income at the same time. We’ll explore that in the next section.
Can I Subdivide My Property into a Battleaxe Block?
If you own a big enough property subdivide, then yes, you can subdivide it into a battleaxe block. In fact, subdividing your block can be a great way to build your dream home while still being able to live in your current house during construction, making the entire process convenient and cost-effective.
Of course, if your focus is investment, you can sell the rear lot after subdivision or develop the property with the goal of adding value for an even greater profit. Alternatively, battleaxe block developments can give property owners a great source of long-term rental income in sought-after suburban areas, and you can still reap the rewards if you eventually decide to sell.
To find out if your block has subdivision potential, you’ll need to do some research into local zoning regulations. In Perth, the R-codes form the basis of property zoning regulations.
R-codes or residential design codes serve to manage residential growth in Western Australia. To find out your R-code, you can use the mapping features on the local councils’ websites, where you can find out if the zone is eligible for subdivision.
To find out the minimum block size, you’ll need to check your local council’s density zoning regulations and how they’ll apply to your property. This will tell you if you can subdivide, how many lots you can create, and any other requirements you have to meet.
In addition to minimum lot sizes, you’ll also have to meet criteria such as a minimum average lot size across the entire subdivision project or multi-dwelling development, minimum setback from boundaries and minimum open space on the lot once the building is complete.
Costs of creating a battleaxe block
After determining if your property is eligible to be subdivided into a battleaxe block, you will need to be ready for any upfront expenses. Building a battleaxe block from scratch does come with a few costs, including:
- Reconnection of power, phone, gas, internet, water, and other utilities
- WAPC service fee costs
- Local council fees
- Settlement agent fees
- Surveyor fees
- Landgate titling fees
The costs may vary depending on your location, local council, square area, etc. Just remember that you will need to pay for these costs upfront before you go ahead with the subdivision.
What are the best ways to subdivide a large block?
The best way to subdivide a large block depends on the size and orientation of the lot. One of the most common subdivision types is the rear strata or the battleaxe block subdivision method. If you are looking to make a profit, you can often earn more per square metre with these strategies. You can also try small strata development to make the most out of your property’s space.
What is the minimum frontage for a battleaxe block?
The minimum frontage for a battleaxe block depends on the type of title. For freehold titles, the minimum frontage is 4 metres, and for strata subdivisions the minimum is 3 metres.