WHEN Michelle Galletti’s husband first showed her a tiny fisherman’s cottage on Sydney’s northern beaches, she didn’t think it was worth nearly a million dollars.
Sitting on just 264 square metres, it was passed in at auction and had been sitting forlornly with a “For Sale” sign out the front for months.
Even Galletti’s dad, a real estate agent with decades of experience, thought it was a dud buy.
But her husband, Dave Limburg, persisted. The landscape designer and share trader could see its potential and finally persuaded his pregnant wife to take a chance. They bought it for $960,000.
Five years later the couple have built a stunning four bedroom, three bathroom home with a pool on the tiny plot. What’s more, they’ve just sold it for a staggering $3.22 million.
“We feel so lucky but we also learned that it’s about taking a risk — an educated risk,” says Galletti.
The couple’s project is a triumph of vision over size. South-facing yet situated just 100 metres from Freshwater Beach, its beachy vibe and Hamptons-style design saw buyers flock to the viewings.
With louvred windows, large bedrooms and custom-built cabinetry, the Charles Street property tempted both families and downsizers.
So how did the couple, parents to Isla, 5, and Tully, 4, manage to squeeze so much house on to such a small block?
“I’ve always had this dream of having an old Queenslander and we knew we wanted a lovely tropical garden,” says Galletti. “As a real estate agent I know the bedrooms have to be a good size and you always have to consider the resale factor.”
Among the couple’s clever design features are floor-level windows in the living area — which show off foliage rather than the neighbour’s fence, a timber-beamed ceiling and a deck rather than a floor between the bedrooms on the second level.
They also recycled all the windows from the old cottage including some lead lights.
While the pair had plenty of ideas themselves they were thrilled when Xu Kha of Scope Architects immediately understood their vision. They managed to obtain a complying development certificate which meant there was no need for a time-consuming development approval and the house was built in nine months.
“I wanted a house where I could be in the kitchen but I could also see the kids at the same time,” says Galletti. “With the doors out to the deck we get the gorgeous ocean breeze.”
As a sales agent with Cunninghams Real Estate on the northern beaches, Galletti says building her own home on such a small block has given her great insights which she can pass on to dozens of homebuyers she sees each week.
Not that she and Limburg, who runs Peaceful Landscapes, didn’t make mistakes.
“We only thought about adding a pool once the house was built,” she laughs. “So Dave dug the hole himself and he and a mate pushed wheelbarrows of earth through the house. It would’ve been so much easier putting the pool in before we built!”
Likewise, the couple only got around to putting door handles on all the doors two weeks before they decided to sell.
“We’re so fortunate and we learnt so much through the process,” says Galletti. “I don’t regret a single thing and it’s taught us that if you see something you like and you have a connection with it, it’s worth paying just that little bit more.”
The couple and their children are now on the move — but not far. They’ve bought a house in the next street and plan to build another dream home. This time, however, they’ve got twice the land size to work with.