How to choose a Sydney eastern suburbs buyers’ agent

November 23rd, 2018

Introduction

There really is nothing like Sydney’s eastern suburbs with its swag of residential property records:

  • five of the ten most searched suburbs on domain.com.au
  • eight of the ten most expensive Australian homes
  • the three most expensive Australian suburbs in which the median house price starts at $3.89 million
  • as at June 2017, compared to Greater Sydney a median:
    – house price of $2.47 million versus $1.07 million and
    – unit price of $1.06 million versus $763,475.

No other Sydney region makes celebrities of its selling agents; many of whom drive the region’s small distances in high performance cars.

Others, like the agent who set the Australian house price record with the $100 million sale of  “Freshwater” in September 2018 stars in a video about Freshwater and “Elaine” next door which he also sold for a paltry $71 million. Both of those properties are in Point Piper around the corner from the last elected prime minister’s waterfront mansion.

Property is hot gossip and most real estate transactions result from schmick selling campaigns culminating in an aggressive auction.

The rest – around 45% (higher for tightly held, debt free properties over $ 4 million) – sell off market to buyers in the know including well connected Sydney eastern suburbs buyers’ agent such as Curtis Associates who, over many years, have earned reputations for being well prepared, realistic, discrete, trustworthy and decisive.

These are not the buyer’s agents offering sellers’ agents referral fees which are illegal in NSW and lead to more doors being closed than opened to them.

Prior to the GFC, the premium end of the eastern suburbs residential property market was driven by bonus earning investment bankers. Afterwards, it was the Chinese buyers.

Now it’s diverse, post IPO cashed up HNWs, Fintech as well as IT entrepreneurs joined by overseas buyers who, in the reverse of what happened pre GFC, see Sydney’s eastern suburbs real estate as a hedge against global share market volatility and currency fluctuations. This includes some from New Zealand as well as Brexit fleeing expatriates taking advantage of the falling Australian dollar and hoping for a stronger pound. Competent eastern suburbs buyer agents should know the reasons for the difference between what now is happening above $4 million and what happened in 2007/8.

As you will see however, there is much more to the eastern suburbs property market than trophy homes and flashy cars. There is also a property for everyone if they can afford to buy it.

While the undoubted attractions of these suburbs make them resilient to market cycles, an eastern suburbs buyers’ agent should also know that none of the region’s many micro markets is bullet proof and that its current auction clearance rates are higher than other regions only because of higher non reporting rates.

For proof, SQM’s just released Boom and Bust Report 2019 reveals that over the past seven years, Point Piper actually recorded the region’s lowest annual house price trend of -3% and Corelogic’s Q2 2018 Pain and Gain Report discloses that  the percentage of sales at a loss that quarter in each of the three local government areas (LGAs) comprising the eastern suburbs – Randwick, Waverley and Woollahra  – were 0.7%, 2.1% and 3.5% respectively.

What are Sydney’s ‘eastern suburbs’?

Everyone agrees Sydney’s eastern suburbs lie between the eastern seaboard, Watsons Bay in the north and La Perouse in the south.

Opinions differ as to the western boundary.

Domain generously runs a line from Pyrmont to Botany via suburbs such as Eveleigh and Alexandria which therefore includes Sydney itself, Dawes Point and Millers Point. This makes no sense because it begs the question ‘east of what?’

Least generous is the ABS with its ‘Statistical Area Level 4’ putting the line through the middle of Rushcutters Bay Park, the western boundaries of Centennial Park and the ‘wait 15 years to get in’ Australian Golf Club before it heads south from Kingsford to Port Botany:

While this article uses the ABS definition, in practice Elizabeth Bay, Potts Point, Rushcutters Bay, Woolloomooloo, Darlinghurst, Surry Hills and Redfern join the list.

In addition to the three LGAs mentioned, the eastern suburbs comprise two Commonwealth electorates whose boundaries almost mirror the ABS definition. They are Wentworth to the north of Randwick and Kingsford Smith to the south. As an indication of the diversity between the two, in the 2017 Same Sex Marriage Survey the former electorate returned the fourth  highest  Australian ‘Yes’ vote at 81% whereas the latter returned only the equal 58th highest at 64%.

What’s so great about the eastern suburbs?

It’s no surprise those suburbs host the course chosen for the annual City to Surf which is the world’s fifth biggest fun run.

By the finish line, its runners (and others) will have travelled over and past these parts of the Harbourside precinct:

  • Rushcutters Bay with its park and one of the region’s five yacht clubs then up the hill to
  • Edgecliff which is home to Ascham School; one of the region’s three in the top 10 ATAR ranked secondary schools and the location of one of two heavy railway stations then down into
  • Double Bay which provides one of the  four eastern ferry  wharves to the city and the sublime Murray Rose Pool (Redleaf) before arriving at family friendly and stunning
  • Rose Bay with its seaplanes moored next to Catalina restaurant and across the road from one of the east’s six golf courses before the climb up ‘heartbreak hill’ to the even more family friendly
  • Vaucluse past two more grand and elite private girls’ schools enjoying iconic and elevated views to the north west of Sydney harbour, the Bridge and Opera House (and which, off to the left, leads to lush Nielsen Park and Parsley Bay) before hitting the arid Beachside precinct that starts at
  • Dover Heights with its ocean views leading to North Bondi and the finish line next to the world famous
  • Bondi Beach to the south of which are
  • Tamarama and Bronte beaches (via the Bondi to Bronte Coastal Walk) as well as the suburbs and beaches of
  • Clovelly and Coogee.

What’s not to like?!

Well, these are just some of the negatives and risks of which property buyers should be made aware:

  • late night revellers in lock out law free Double Bay
  • flooding risk in Rose Bay
  • the impact Air BnB is having on Bondi
  • a shortage of public schools
  • frequent traffic congestion between Vaucluse and Edgecliff and
  • water pollution and intermittent stench in North Bondi, Vaucluse and Dover Heights from three untreated wastewater outfalls at Vaucluse and Diamond Bay which the State Government has recently promised to rectify; a promise which hopefully the State opposition will keep if it wins in March 2019.

South and to the west of the Harbourside and Beachside precincts is Parkside; so called because of suburbs orientated around Centennial, Moore and Queens Parks like:

  • Paddington, a bellwether Sydney suburb with one of the highest concentrations of Victorian terrace rows in the world and highly sought after by professional couples and younger families
  • Woollahra with its larger, more family friendly blocks (especially around the prestigious Wallaroy Road consular belt), prized unit blocks on the northern side and very low rates of development
  • Centennial Park with a thicket of ugly units flanking Centennial Park facing mansions along Lang and Martin Roads
  • Bondi Junction; one of the region’s larger commercial centres that includes the second heavy rail station, a Westfield and high density unit blocks. Dotted between them are well regarded streets like Mill Hill Road and Bon Accord Avenue in which The Central Synagogue is found
  • Queens Park, a family friendly and tree lined mixture of double fronted Federations and town homes squeezing every millimetre of accommodation from their small blocks and
  • Randwick, Kensington and Kingsford with residential styles ranging from high density to large, single level family homes and in which the Prince of Wales Hospital, Royal Randwick Racecourse, the University of New South Wales (UNSW) and the National Institute of Dramatic Art are located and through which, the problematic CBD and South East Light Rail project passes.

Risks and negatives here include:

  • the extent of UNSW’s dependency on  foreign students and the longer term impact on that precinct if their numbers fell
  • unfiltered particulate over south Paddington from the Flinders Street Eastern Distributor ventilation stack
  • the impact of the CBD and South East Light Rail project on local businesses, commercial properties and property values generally  along its route
  • the proposed Alexandria to Moore Park Connectivity Upgrade (A2MP) linking Randwick to  Westconnex
  • potential in ground contamination in parts of Queens Park from previous light industrial uses and
  • likely overdevelopment in Randwick, Bondi Junction and Waverley.

To the south of Parkside lies the Kingsford Smith electorate. Being orientated around the other four golf courses, we call this the Golfside precinct and its suburbs include:

  • Coogee with its booming beach front and café scene
  • Maroubra with another iconic beach
  • Maroubra Junction which has a large and thriving commercial centre and
  • Malabar; home to the sprawling Long Bay Jail visible behind lines of trees.

Partly because of its distance from the city, lack of railway and a relatively high concentration of public housing, Golfside has been regarded by some as the least fashionable of the eastern suburbs. This proved unwise: according to SQM, over the past seven years, some of its suburbs recorded the eastern suburbs’ strongest annual house price growth trends with Coogee and La Perouse both exceeding 8.6%.

Risks and negatives in this precinct include:

  • asbestos contamination in South Coogee from Randwick Barracks
  • severe intermittent aircraft noise in parts of Coogee
  • an occasional stench on Coogee Beach and
  • a proposed cruise ship terminal in Yarra Bay.

What are the key property drivers in the eastern suburbs?

Eastern suburbs buyer agents should base any property advice on key data including these from 2017:

Key Driver   Sydney eastern suburbs #   Sydney eastern suburbs %  Greater Sydney %  NSW % 
Population   283,752        
Population growth (2011 to 2016)  5,073  1.82     1.67 
Working age residents (25 – 54 years)  124,678  47.6  43.5   
Growing families (0-14 years)  40,142  15.3  18.7   
Health care, social assistance, education, training, professional, scientific and technical services  28,454   41.9  31   
Households earning $2,500 pw or more  36,616  37.3  28.3   
Tertiary educated (bachelor or higher degree)  92,230  41.6  28.3  23.4 
Housing:  

  • owned outright 

 

  • mortgaged 

 

  • renting 

 

  • freestanding 

 

  • medium density 

 

  • high density (3+ storeys) 
  

27,180 

 

22,867 

 

44,162 

 

24,654 

 

34,386 

 

55,580 

  

25.7 

 

21.6 

 

41.7 

 

21.2 

 

29.6 

 

47.8 

  

27.7 

 

31.5 

 

32.6 

 

55.0 

 

20.3 

 

23.5 

  

 

 

 

 

30.3 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Work more than:  

  • 40 hours/week 

 

  • 49 hours/week 
  

 

 

 

  

53.5 

 

20.9 

 

  

45.8 

 

14.8 

  

 

 

 

Of Jewish faith    8.4    0.5 

Also relevant to understanding the region’s profile are these demographic indicators for the three LGAs:

LGA Over 65 years % Changed address in last 5 years % Public transport to work %
Randwick 13.4 46.3 27.9
Waverley 12.7 47 33.5
Woollahra 18.7 47.7 29.8
NSW 16.3 39 15.9

Sources: ABS 2016 Census, ABS ERP 2017, NIEIR, .id the population experts, Curtis Associates

The picture painted by this data is much more nuanced than all the high profile property sales suggest.  Compared to other Sydney LGAs, the eastern suburbs are in fact largely populated by high income earning, well educated and time poor renters (not owners) living in medium to high density dwellings for whom children are less of a priority and who are also highly mobile.

Of the three segments which .id the population experts project to be the focus of growth in the next 20 years, on current trends the eastern suburbs will be home more to  …”those people moving through their peak-earning years”  and less so to  the other two growth segments being the retirement-aged population (baby boomers) and those with school-aged children.

This has implications for anyone buying in the region. The high percentage of renters also makes many property values vulnerable to recent credit restrictions imposed on investors and possibly, to any changes to negative gearing and the CGT discount if there is a change of Federal government in 2019.

Conclusion

While there is a lot to consider when buying property in the eastern suburbs, its negatives are far outweighed by its positives.

If you are considering a buyer’s agent to do so, hopefully this article will help you make the right choice.

Happy hunting!