While finding the right house is of course paramount in any property hunt, we as agents are being asked more than ever about the area. When you are on the hunt, it is common for well-intentioned people to give advice and ideas about what kinds of people live in your suburbs of interest- you’ve probably heard it before- “Oh it’s a good place for raising a family”.. “It’s an up and coming area perfect young professionals”… “That’s a hippie suburb- full of greenies!”. If where you live says something about you as a person, how do you find the right suburb to call home? Choosing the perfect area for your family depends on a whole range of things unique to you.
So if you’re new to the area and don’t have the benefit of experience, what are the tell-tale signs that you’re looking in the right place?
Assess your needs
First off, you must recognise what exactly you are looking for in an area. Are you buying to be in a particular zone for a high school? Looking for capital growth? Or are you downsizing from the family home? Such initial questions will help narrow down your search.
Community is massively underrated in choosing your next place.
As an agent working within a tight knit community, I can say that more than two thirds of sales since opening have been from locals. Although aspects like CBD proximity are always important, the sense of community plays a huge part. It becomes even more evident when families are trading up to larger family homes. Once they have made connections and lifelong friends and the kids have networks, it is really hard to leave. This is so much so that other factors like school proximity are deprioritised, whereby families choose to stay and opt for their kids to use public transport. As a vendor, community is an asset in itself because when residents stay put, there is increased competition and suburb value tends to increase.
“Community is important for us- what are the indicators of good community culture?”
Lucky for us, access to information about a particular area is easier than it has ever been. There are some great community groups in areas that take an active interest when it comes to up to date information regarding hyperlocal affairs. For example, community Facebook “buy, swap & sell” groups have linked communities like never before and people have made lifelong friends all while discovering an area. In the Inner West of Melbourne, IWBSS (Inner West Buy Swap Sell) has just reached about 30,000 members where they share local news and opinions. If anything untoward is happening in the local area, often it will pop up in a feed here sometimes before even the police know!
Local council websites are also a great resource for information. For example, the Maribyrnong and Hobsons Bay websites are excellent in West Melbourne and both councils have great teams dedicated to community engagement. Everything you want to know from kindergartens, sporting teams to services for the elderly are usually on the council’s websites.
“I want to live in an up and coming area- how can I tell?”
Look at the areas that have gentrified next to the suburb you are considering. If affordability is a factor, prices probably moved your search to a less desirable suburb. Yet, it no doubt would have moved other buyers too. Look for the signs of renovation in that area. This is in houses and possibly a little village of shops such as cafes.
There are some fundamentals in trying to pick if an area has potential for growth. Infrastructure upgrades by government or private enterprises can give a whole suburb a lift in value. For example, Footscray has and will continue to have significant money spent on its CBD and the zoning has changed allowing high density housing. The millions of dollars spent on infrastructure has pushed up land values not only for development sites, but for family homes that are benefiting from the upgrade in amenities.
Good coffee is one of the signs for me. There was a time when buyers passed over West Footscray. But now coffee shops have opened and folk are renovating houses.
Speak to locals like shop owners and ask what living in the area is like. They will tell you. They will sometimes give great tips on where to avoid.
Some other factors to consider…
- Period homes in period streets (if possible in the area you are looking for)
- Close to public transport (preferably train or tram)
- Within a school zone
- Close to a local village or coffee shops
- Subdivision potential down the track
I always like to watch how many people stop to talk to each other in the streets. I have watched a significant change in my area in the past 10 years. What strikes me the most is how the ‘newcomers’ to the area have bonded so quickly. We often joke that we should have pram parking spots painted on the foot paths. Mothers’ groups help young mums discover the local facilities. My wife’s mothers group still catch up after many years.
Watch the prams and a great community is right behind.
“Before I buy, who are the key influencers in the area whose opinions are worth getting?”
There are some great sources you can ask about a local area to help you make an informed decision. Local agents who have been around for a while should be able to help greatly. A quality agent is on the ground everyday and so has a connection with the community. Offer to buy them a coffee on the way to the agent’s office! You will find the good agents will help you in a very short space of time. If you have specific questions, email them. They should be able to perform the research for you. Contrary to popular belief, agents are nice people! If possible make sure your finances are ready to go. If you try to buy a house with a subject to finance clause and another buyer makes an offer with no conditions for finance, you may lose your dream home.
About the author: Marty Rankin is the Managing Director of Village Real Estate, Melbourne. Combining a genuine passion for people, an unmatched commitment to helping his community and an uncompromising work ethic, there’s a reason why Marty is recognised as a top performer in the Inner West Melbourne and an “all round nice guy”!