In my job as a builder I often get asked to inspect properties, to provide condition reports and cost of repair assessments.
In 2016 while on one of these inspections I found myself standing on the roof of a once magnificent early 20th century mansion, in Western Victoria. Everywhere I looked there were tiles missing and water had been pouring in whenever it rained. The small village of possums that occupied the roof space appeared more than satisfied with the access arrangements, able to soak up the warmth provided by the many electric heaters raging in the uninsulated rooms below.
On the day of my visit the house was abuzz with energy, laughter and conversation. It was full of family, the owner’s adult children, their partners and kids. They had all travelled from Melbourne to stay for the weekend.
I later discovered that the property was part of an ongoing and complicated divorce settlement. The visiting was a way of coming together and saying goodbye to a family home.
The financial burden that is dictated by the sheer scale of these old places is often just like the houses themselves, enormous. They require around the clock maintenance just to remain serviceable and liveable. It is terrible to have to observe the realisation that admiration and memories alone are not enough to repair the cracks.