Why we bought Ristevski house: Couple speak on Avondale Heights renovation of notorious home

Samantha and James Mandalas (inset) have spent two years transforming the house at 23 Oakley Drive, Avondale Heights, where Karen and Borce Ristevski previously lived.

The couple who bought the Avondale Heights house where Karen Ristevski is believed to have been killed say the home’s dark past was no turn off.

Samantha and James Mandalas have spent two years transforming the house at 23 Oakley Drive with plans to live there but say they have now decided on a “regretful sale” to be closer to family after the birth of their sixth child.

They are selling privately with a $2.5m-$2.75m asking price, $1.225m higher than the $1.275m they paid for the property in 2020, according to CoreLogic.

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Mrs Ristevski disappeared in June 2016, aged 47, and her body was discovered in Macedon bushland the next year.

Her husband, Borce, was convicted over her death after pleading guilty to manslaughter in 2019, more than two years after her remains were found, averting the need for a high-profile murder trial.

He is serving a minimum 10 years in jail.

Karen Ristevski at a store she ran at Watergardens Shopping Centre in Taylors Lakes. Picture: Kylie Else

Mr Ristevski initially told police his wife had walked out of the family home about 10am the day she disappeared, saying she was going to clear her head.

But Mrs Ristevski’s phone had been tracked 40km northwest of Melbourne, as had her husband’s, on that day.

Data also revealed Mr Ristevski’s phone had been switched off for two hours on June 29 — the day Mrs Ristevski vanished.

Police charged Mr Ristevski with his wife’s murder in December 2017.

The home when it was listed for sale in 2020.

A new look for the property following its renovation.

Ms Mandalas said they knew the Ristevskis had lived in the home, but they were acquainted with Borce’s son Anthony through mutual friends and “knew Karen didn’t reside at the home or live at the home at the time of the murder”.

Mail still arrived for the former owner, and the neighbours recalled them.

But she said the home’s history “didn’t bother us”: “We fell in love with it and its warm family feel”.

A transformed kitchen.

The renovated property from another angle.

Ms Mandalas said “blood, sweat and tears has gone into the house”, with the couple working from 7am to midnight on the reno project some days, with the help of tradie friends.

“We have gutted the house, everything has been changed from flooring, full electrical, marble finishes, cameras, architecturally designed kitchen to emphasise city views,” she said.

“The finishes have been imported from Italy, Spain and around the world.

“Each piece of the home has been individually designed for a large family in mind utilising the best of appliances and finishes.

“It has a warm, loving feel with amazing views and perfect hide-out spaces for those with kids or working from home.”

A bathroom as it looks now.

The former bathroom.

They bought the five-bedroom house from Mr and Mrs Ristevski’s daughter, Sarah, through an auction they participated in via phone due to Covid-19 restrictions.

“We purchased the home off Sarah and then had to get probate off Borce and we were delayed through this process approximately five months,” Ms Mandalas said.

The kitchen pre-renovation.

And post-upgrade.

Ms Mandalas said they bought “knowing we had to spend a lot of money” to renovate the house after building other homes in Avondale Heights, Epping and Wollert.

“Price wasn’t an issue, we were attracted to the layout and convenience of the large scale home with so many kids,” she said.

“It actually felt like home: beautiful views, split levels, and we love to design and flip homes.”

The new facade of the house.

The front of the home as captured in 2020.

Ray White Ascot Vale director Adam Hicks said several buyers have expressed interest.

“The phone has been running hot given the location, high-end renovation, the size of the block at 656sq m and the city views,” Mr Hicks said.

Ray White agent David Bignoux noted the Mandalas had added a theatre room to the house.

Expressions of interest close July 15 at 5pm.

A study or home office in the renovated house.

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