Homebuyers have continued to seek out properties in suburbs offering more space and a better lifestyle, new data has revealed, as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic forces people to spend more time at home.

Melbourne’s Brighton was the most in-demand capital city suburb for serious house buyers in 2021. Picture: Getty.

Between January and June 2021, realestate.com.au data showed a strong preference for properties in coastal and leafy outer-city suburbs, based on the number of ‘highly-engaged’ buyers looking at properties in the area.

A highly-engaged or serious buyer is someone who is likely close to making a purchase, based on their activity on realestate.com.au.

Across the capital cities, Melbourne’s Brighton was the most popular suburb for serious house buyers, with 275,746 highly-engaged buyers looking at homes in the beachside suburb this year. Kellyville topped the list for Sydney (248,626 buyers), while government grants helped boost demand in Perth’s Baldivis (159,830 buyers).

REA Group economist Anne Flaherty said the data suggested the COVID-driven trend towards bigger homes and extra space has continued into 2021 as people spend more time at home during the pandemic.

“Homes in CBDs and in fringe markets tend to be quite small because the value of land is very high. With people working from home and spending more time at home in general, they are looking for bigger properties with more bedrooms,” she said.

Where property values have risen the most

Separate data by realestate.com.au also revealed a similar trend for house values, with the biggest growth recorded in scenic and coastal suburbs.

Across the capital cities, Phegans Bay topped the list in Greater Sydney, with average estimated house values rising 43% since the start of the year. Shoreham, on Melbourne’s Mornington Peninsula, recorded a 44% jump, and Brisbane’s Laceys Creek rose 33%.

Ms Flaherty said their proximity to the CBD offered the best of both worlds.

“They’re within about an hour-and-a-half from the city and they’ve got good transport infrastructure, but most are along the coast or in scenic areas. So, they’re appealing to people looking for that lifestyle, but still wanting to be close to amenities,” she explained.

Ms Flaherty said the imbalance between supply and demand in these areas is also helping to drive prices higher.

“There is a huge volume of demand in regional and scenic areas, and there are not as many properties coming up for sale as there are buyers to buy them,” Ms Flaherty said.

“In a sense, people are realising they’re going to have to put in a really competitive offer if they want to stand a chance of competing. So, buyers are upping their offers just to be competitive and that’s pushing up values.”

The most sought-after suburbs

While house hunters sought space in scenic outer suburbs, it’s a different story for units, with CBD markets proving the most popular with apartment buyers in every state and territory.

While inner-city suburbs are generally more popular for unit buyers due to greater supply, Ms Flaherty said investors may also be capitalising on the recent weakness in those markets.

“We’re definitely seeing a dip in the inner-city markets, which means that prices are below what they otherwise would have been,” she said.

“At the moment, rental vacancies are still very high in a lot of CBDs, particularly Melbourne and Sydney. However, from an investor’s perspective, eventually international students will return, overseas migration will resume and people coming into Australia tend to like to live in central locations.

“The other thing is that when we look at demand from overseas buyers, they tend to look specifically in CBD areas.”

Use the interactive below to see how well your suburb has performed in the first half of 2021

While lockdowns across NSW, Victoria and South Australia are expected to slow market activity, Ms Flaherty said activity will likely bounce back for the spring selling season.

“What we’re going to see over the next few weeks is a lull in the property market because nearly half the country is in lockdown,” she said.

“What we’ll probably see is people who would have otherwise brought their properties to market to sell hold off for a little while. And what that’s going to do is probably increase the volume of properties coming for sale during the spring season.”

The most in-demand suburbs state-by-state

Here is a state-by-state breakdown of the most popular suburbs for house and unit hunters in 2021 so far.


New South Wales

With almost a quarter of a million (248,626) highly-engaged buyers in 2021, Sydney’s most in-demand suburb for houses was Kellyville.

Located approximately 36km north-west of the CBD, Kellyville offers a lower price point than Sydney’s popular beachside suburbs, with a median property price of $1.4 million in June according to realestate.com.au data.

The suburb of Kellyville attracted families seeking bigger homes on larger blocks. picture: realestate.com.au/buy

The prestigious harbourside suburb of Mosman – where median prices are almost three times that of Kellyville at $4.3 million – ranked second, with 189,511 serious buyers.

The suburb of Sydney was most in-demand for units across the capital city with 278,703 highly-engaged buyers, followed by Manly (147,381 buyers).

Across the rest of NSW, coastal properties were highly sought-after. Byron Bay – where the median home value is $2.5 million – topped the list for houses with 202,363 highly-engaged buyers, while Wollongong (167,261 buyers) was most in-demand for units.

The biggest increase in demand was seen on the coastal suburb of Coalcliff, just north of Wollongong, which recorded a staggering 1047% surge in the number of serious homebuyers looking for houses in that suburb.


Victoria

Despite some setbacks in 2020 as a result of the state’s extended lockdowns, buyer activity has made up for lost time.

Brighton, with a median home value of $3.1 million, was most in-demand for houses across Greater Melbourne.

The inner-city suburb of Melbourne ranked first for units, with 602,140 serious buyers. In May, the Victorian government announced stamp duty concessions for CBD apartments.

Across the rest of Victoria, Ocean Grove had the highest number of serious buyers seeking houses (191,201). Geelong was most in-demand for units (103,167 buyers).


Queensland

Suburbs on the south-east were highly sought-after in the sunshine state, with nine out of the top 10 most in-demand suburbs for houses located on the Gold Coast.

Buderim on the Sunshine Coast took out the top spot across the state with 323,755 highly-engaged buyers looking for houses in the suburb. Family-oriented Camp Hill in Brisbane’s east had the highest number of highly-engaged buyers (195,646 buyers) in the capital city.

For units, Brisbane City had the highest number of serious buyers in the capital (254,333 buyers), while outside of the capital, Surfers Paradise – known for its skyline of high-rise holiday apartments – topped the list (447,843 buyers).


Western Australia

Government grants like HomeBuilder and the state’s building bonus boosted demand for properties in the outer Perth suburb of Baldivis, where the median property price in June was $446,000 – up 7% so far this year. In the first half of 2021, 159,830 highly-engaged buyers looked for houses in Baldivis.

Outside of Perth, Margaret River was the most in-demand suburb in WA. Picture: Getty.

Outside of Perth, lifestyle factors drew buyers to the leafy suburb of Margaret River, famous for its vineyards and rugged coastline. So far this year, 105,296 serious buyers have looked for a house in the suburb, which has a median property value of $570,000.

For units, the Perth CBD had the highest number of highly-engaged buyers (186,247) in the capital, and Bunbury topped (38,054 buyers) the list for the rest of WA.


South Australia

Recently ranked the world’s third most liveable city by The Economist Intelligence Unit, Adelaide’s CBD was most in-demand for serious buyers this year.

In the first half of 2021, 170,551 highly-engaged buyers searched for houses in the suburb of Adelaide, and 264,295 sought units.

Outside of Greater Adelaide, highly-engaged buyers seeking both houses and units were attracted to the lifestyle of coastal town, Victor Harbor, with 90,600 serious buyers looking for houses and 39,420 buyers looking for units in the suburb.


Tasmania

Hobart’s Sandy Bay – where the median value in June was $1.3 million – was most in-demand for houses in the capital city, with 176,137 highly-engaged buyers in 2021.

Buyers seeking apartments looked to Hobart’s CBD, with 108,155 highly-engaged buyers.

Across the rest of Tasmania, Devonport on the north coast was highly sought after for houses (120,931 buyers), while the city of Launceston (49,563 buyers) ranked first for units.


Northern Territory

The rural Darwin suburb of Humpty Doo was the most in-demand suburb for houses in the capital city, with 53,438 highly-engaged buyers looking for properties in the suburb in the first half of 2021. For units, the Darwin CBD was most in-demand (72,894 buyers).

Roughly 40km from Darwin’s CBD, Humpty Doo is the Northern Territory’s most in-demand suburb for houses. Picture: realestate.com.au/buy

Outside of Darwin, house hunters looked to Gillen in Alice Springs for both houses (22,263 buyers) and units (9,596 buyers).


ACT

The ACT’s largest suburb, Kambah, was the most highly sought-after suburb for houses in the Australian capital, with 52,206 highly-engaged buyers looking for homes in the area in the first half of this year.

Property values in the sprawling suburb have gained 11% so far this year, with realestate.com.au data showing a median value of $813,000 in June.

Inner-city Kingston was most in-demand for units, with 57,338 serious buyers in 2021.

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