The month in review: Canberra property market updates

By Herron Todd White
April 2019

That old adage of location, location, location is something most of us have heard before. Or alternatively you may have heard someone advise you to buy the worst house in the best street. Generally speaking, both sayings imply that when buying real estate, it’s best to buy in a prestigious suburb or find a house along that dress circle address.

Well, it is! But why, you ask? From a residential perspective a good suburb will have a diverse number of desirable factors that cement its position within a market and that market’s perception. But buying real estate in these suburbs can come at a price point not everyone can afford. So is there a way to find an affordable dwelling within a prestigious suburb

For the purpose of this piece, we’ll look at the Gungahlin District in Canberra’s outer north and see what suburbs are its best, what the entry level prices are and where and what to look for when buying at an affordable price point.

Firstly, the Gungahlin District is located approximately 13 kilometres north of Canberra City and is made up of 16 residential suburbs. By postcode, these are: 2618 – Hall; 2911 – Crace; 2912 – Gungahlin; 2913 – Franklin, Casey, Nicolls, Ngunnawal, Taylor and Palmerston; 2914 – Harrison, Throsby, Forde, Amaroo, Bonner, Moncrieff and Jacka.

The district’s top three suburbs would arguably have to be Hall, Nicholls and Forde. Whilst each suburb has unique elements that make them different from each other, there is an underlying common theme of multiple desirable factors across all three suburbs. Beginning with establishment and green space, the three suburbs are all well established. There are minimal vacant residential blocks, landscaped streetscapes and established private gardens and multiple public green spaces such as parks, golf courses and nature reserves dotted throughout or straddling the boundary of each of the suburbs.

Prices for entry level homes in Hall begin at around the $1 million mark, while entry level homes in Forde and Nicholls are cheaper and begin at around $500,000 to $600,000. Entry-level properties in Hall sell for higher as most of the blocks are over 2,000 square metres, there is a limited amount of residential stock available, which is tightly held, and the suburb is well established and one of Canberra’s oldest, which is in unique contrast to the rest of Gungahlin District’s modern residential stock.

When looking at unit titled properties, Hall offers a very limited choice of stock and therefore prices reflect this with two-bedroom units starting in excess of $600,000. Nicholls and Forde offer a much larger breadth of choice to suit a range of budgets, with entry level two-bedrooms units beginning around the low $400,000s, whilst larger four-bedroom properties sell around the $600,000 range. On rare occasions, four-bedroom unit titled properties in Nicholls will sell in excess of $700,000 but properties that sell in this price range are afforded the luxury of uninterrupted golf course views and directly back onto golf course greens.

Then there is the make-up of the residential stock within each of the suburbs. All three tend to be characterised by large free standing dwellings on large blocks, with smaller free standing and duplex style dwellings on smaller courtyard style blocks scattered scarcely throughout or confined only to a limited location within each suburb. As a point of contrast, more affordable suburbs such as Ngunnawal and Bonner have sizeable sections within their boundaries made up of smaller courtyard style blocks, with larger style blocks being confined to only certain sections within the suburb.

There is also a difference in the proportion of residential stock that is comprised of separately titled Crown Lease properties and unit titled properties. Hall, Nicholls and Forde all have unit titled properties within them but relative to the proportion of separately titled Crown Lease properties, they’re largely outweighed. Of the unit titled properties within the three suburbs it is not uncommon to find smaller sized developments with ten or fewer units within the body corporate and free standing unit titled townhouses. Generally speaking unit titled developments within Hall, Nicholls and Forde benefit from an overall lower density style of construction.

Given we’ve now had a brief look at some of the desirable factors that help make Hall, Nicholls and Forde favoured suburbs within Gungahlin District, what then is the best way to buy into these suburbs at an affordable price point and are there certain spots where you can find such properties?

It almost seems like an oxymoron, to buy an affordable property in a prestigious location, but it can be done if you understand that compromises may be needed. Firstly though, when using the term affordable property and talking about a prestigious location, it is important to understand that it is relative to the location you’re searching in.

The most obvious way to get into a prestigious location has to do with what type of property you buy. As previously mentioned, certain styles of property and block sizes tend to be confined to certain locations within a prestigious suburb. The more affordable properties are often clustered around spots characterised by smaller blocks sizes and higher density style living, so sections of a prestigious suburb where duplex style dwellings and courtyard sized blocks are commonly found will tend to have overall lower advertised prices than sections characterised by large free standing dwellings on large blocks.

Unit titled properties also offer an affordable entry point into prestigious suburbs and in the case of Hall, Nicholls and Forde, they often present more desirable developments to buy into than other unit titled developments in surrounding suburbs such as Moncrieff and Casey due to the overall lower density style of construction and choice of developments with small body corporate sizes.

Furthermore affordable properties may be located along local thoroughfares routes, close to commercial and retail amenities or along suburb boundaries adjacent to less desirable adjoining suburbs.

The compromise here is the potential increase in noise and visual aspect issues. However on the flip side when choosing unit titled properties, proximity to public transport routes along local thoroughfares within a suburb can be beneficial as private car spots can be a limited luxury for unit titled properties.

Although the above piece has been applied to suburbs within Gungahlin District, it can be generally applied to other locations when looking for an opportunity to purchase an affordable property within a prestigious suburb.