As the old saying goes, location, location, location. When you're in the market to buy a house, you'll quickly realise location can be one of if not the biggest factors when it comes to price. The exact same property is likely to be many times more expensive in the inner suburbs of Sydney than it would be in rural Queensland, for example.
Navigating this and narrowing down which suburbs are right for you can be complicated. If you are buying a house to live in, you'll want to weigh up your own priorities for where you want to live, along with the affordability of the suburb and the growth potential. Here is Infochoice's top tips to help you with this decision.
Finding an up and coming suburb
Whether you are buying a family home or an investment property, a viable strategy to make money on a property is to try and find an affordable suburb with big growth potential. If you know what to look for, you might be able to get in on the ground floor and make a huge return on your investment when the suburb you cannily picked explodes in value. To start with, you'll want to narrow down where you can afford to live. The calculator's first tab helps you work out how much you can afford to borrow. Then, open up the second tab (at the bottom of the calculator) and based on the estimate of how much you can borrow, enter in your details and click the green 'Where can I buy?' button. The calculator will give you a list of suburbs to consider. Now you have a starting point to search property listings. From this list, you can now sift through to try and find the growth potential. There are several indicators that can mean a suburb is ripe for a spike in prices.
Vacancy rates is a measure of how much of the property in a suburb is unused. Lots of vacant land and houses in an area means that supply has outstripped demand. This usually creates a buyers' market which brings value down. On the other hand, low vacancy rates means the inverse, that demand is close to outstripping supply. A vacancy rate of around 2-3% is considered normal and robust, while anything less than 1% indicates supply is extremely limited.
Property price history
Analysing the sale price of the recent property transactions in the area you are looking at is another good way to assess growth potential. If you can find an area that has seen substantial growth in recent times, and then try and work out why this has happened, you can assess if this trend is likely to continue.
One of the most common reasons for a suburb to increase in value is significant development in the area. This might be a large retail centre that makes the suburb more livable, or it could be an ongoing project like road upgrades that will see jobs created in the area, and thus increase the demand for housing. Pay attention to suburbs that are currently fairly quiet and affordable with development scheduled for the future. See Also: What to ask an agent at an open home
Finding a suburb that suits your lifestyle
While capital gains and a return on your investment is important, perhaps a more primary concern is finding a suburb you can comfortably live in. Every home buyer will have different priorities. For example, a young family would likely avoid a noisy inner city suburb, while a single young professional might want to be as close as possible to the trendy bars and restaurants. You should try to identify areas that may be deal breaking for others, but less of a problem for you, as this can help you find a cheaper property. Those with dogs and small children might avoid property on a main road, for example, while for three young men looking for a sharehouse, the noise of the main road might not be such a concern as they are out all the time anyway.
When assessing the livability of a suburb, be sure to consider proximity to the following:
- Schools. If you have children, you'll want to make sure there are schools that you would be happy to send them to nearby. Many schools have catchment zones, and if the school is well-regarded, this can drive up prices in those zones.
- Shops. Travelling too far for groceries can become a burden over time. Before buying, you should work out where you will get all your essential shopping each week, and how big a burden travelling to and from these places will be. You might even look out for retail centres nearby to make recreational shopping as painless as possible.
- Public transport. If your plan is to move to the outer suburbs and commute to the inner city, you'll want to make sure public transport is conveniently located in your suburb.
- Parking. All of us are familiar with the nightmare that is finding street parking in a busy area. Particularly relevant for inner city suburbs, it's a good idea to assess the parking situation in an area before you buy. If you are looking at apartments, make sure that you have enough reserved parking spaces in your building. If you regularly need to find street parking outside your new place, in some busy areas you could be walking 15+ minutes to and from your car some mornings and evenings. Some inner-city streets might also be zoned, which means you'll need to move your car during certain times unless you have a permit.
- Parks and nature reserves. If you regularly go for long runs or take your dog walking, you might prefer to live somewhere with a park or nature reserve readily available.
- Bars, Cafes and Restaurants. You should also find out what types of bars, cafes and restaurants are available in your potential new suburb. If you like to go out for Sunday brunch, or for post work beers on Friday, you might want to work out where the closest venues will be in your prospective new suburb. In contrast, if you have a young child or like peace and quiet, a noisy restaurant or bar close by might not be ideal.
- Internet/NBN. If you're moving somewhere more remote, another thing to consider is whether the area has the broadband and internet infrastructure you'll need. If you're planning on regularly working from home, for example, you'll want to make sure you'll be able to have the necessary internet speed. You can compare NBN plans with Infochoice.
You can have the perfect property in a suburb that ticks every box you could wish for in terms of amenities, but it won't be much consolation if your car is stolen the week you move in. You'll want to research the crime rate over the past few years before you move into any suburb, and might also consider checking out suburb reviews on websites like Homely. When you're assessing how safe a property is, it isn't just criminals you'll need to consider. Some suburbs might be particularly prone to flooding for example, which at the very least will probably mean high home insurance premiums. Busy roads, bodies of water, even large trees can all pose a threat to property and life, so you'll want to make at least a rudimentary risk assessment before buying.
Living or renting
If you're in the market for an investment property you should still consider all of the above. Even if you're not going to live in the property, somebody will; that person will care about the quality of the property and its location. The only extra thing to consider for rentals is the type of tenant you're likely to attract with each property. If the property is near a university, you'll probably be renting to students. If it's out in the suburbs near a nice school, you'll likely attract a young family with kids. Keep these things in mind when looking at each property, as there will be certain property features more relevant to certain groups of people. For example, in a sleepy, outer suburb, your prospective tenants may be disproportionately elderly. They might not be able to live on the sixth floor of an apartment block without an elevator, so there could be lower demand for these types of properties. It helps to take the time to look at your property from the eyes of a potential tenant. What might they want in the surrounding regions or from the property itself? If you're unsure about the type of tenant you might attract, have a chat with the real estate agent at the open house and take a quick peek at what other properties in that area are available for rent. Now that you've narrowed down your locations, start comparing home loans today so you know exactly what your budget is when you start looking at property listings.