Melbourne’s west is often touted as a bastion of hope for first homebuyers, dreaming of getting onto the first rung of the property ladder in our most liveable city.
But massive growth over the past few years has seen these once-dreary locales skyrocket in value. Can it possibly continue, or is the boom set to bust?
The last affordable enclave?
It’s not hard to see why buyers are flocking to Melbourne’s west. If you’re hoping to stay within 25 kilometres of the CBD, the median house price in Hoppers Crossing is just a touch over $400,000, while in Heathmont in the east, the same property is worth more than double, at $910,000.
The western suburbs of Werribee, Hoppers Crossing, Melton and Wyndham Vale have dominated auction volume growth so far this year, and this trend is likely to continue as first homebuyers take advantage of the cuts to stamp duty which came into effect on July 1. It’s a case of demand outstripping supply in these affordable suburbs, and the inevitable result has been phenomenal price growth.
Melbourne’s south-western suburbs recorded 42 per cent price growth over the past twelve months – higher than anywhere else in the state. Altona, Albion and Sunshine, once relegated to working-class status, have experienced unprecedented boom, while Footscray seems to have finally shaken off its murky reputation as it inches ever-close to the million-dollar mark.
Can the infrastructure keep up?
New developments, subdivisions and a steady stream of growing families flocking to the area mean increased pressure on roads and public transport, as well as overcrowding in schools.
Rezoning and the creation of several new suburbs are part of the Victorian Government’s plan to tackle the western sprawl, and the 2017 State Budget included a focus on public transport upgrades, with the Werribee line set for an overhaul.
The ever-evolving Tullamarine Freeway is due to have widening works completed sometime next year, while in the coming years there are plans to improve the M80 Ring Road and begin construction of the Western Distributor, which will link the West Gate Freeway to CityLink and Footscray Road.
In fact, a massive $1.8 billion is earmarked to upgrade and maintain major arterials in the western suburbs in the near future. Projects will include widening and duplication on busy thoroughfares in Point Cook, Tarneit, Truganina, Laverton, Hoppers Crossing and Werribee – a welcome relief as the population swells and traffic congestion becomes an increasing issue.
Is the growth sustainable long term?
Well, that depends who you ask! Experts are divided, with some claiming that the stellar growth will continue as the western suburbs continue to improve their reputation and attract more cashed-up buyers. Some even suggest that Sydney’s skyrocketing prices are helping to fuel the boom, as families who can but dream of owning real estate in the Harbour city migrate southward in search of more affordable living.
Demographers .id have forecast that the population in Tarneit, for example, will grow by more than 50,000 residents by 2031 – and with construction unable to keep up, the supply and demand equation is likely to favour further price gains.
Others suggest that price growth will quickly level off as it approaches the Melbourne median, due to the lower average wages among western suburb residents – in contrast to the eastern suburbs, which tend to be populated by higher wage earners. The argument is that the record capital growth over the past few years can’t possibly be sustained until wages catch up with property prices – which doesn’t seem likely in the near future.
At this stage, it’s looking like the western suburbs will outpace the rest of Melbourne in terms of growth in 2018, but where the market takes them after that is anyone’s guess!