The month in review: Wollongong
By Herron Todd White
The Wollongong CBD is located approximately 90 kilometres south of the Sydney CBD. It is approximately a one hour 15 minute commute by train or one hour 30 minute drive depending on traffic. For this reason the Illawarra property market rides on the coat tails of Sydney’s property market. With a substantial boom taking place in Sydney since 2012 many people have been looking outside the capital cities for housing accommodation, with affordability a big driver. One region that has benefited is the Illawarra. Combined with access to established and developing infrastructures and a coastal lifestyle, it’s hard to understand why people are putting up with a 60 to 90 minute commute across Sydney when they can live close to some of the state’s best beaches for a more affordable price with a similar commute time.
It is Wollongong’s northern suburbs that get impacted the most directly. Helensburgh is only a 50 minute train ride to Sydney’s Central station. The geographic proximity also has a flow on effect to Sydneysiders who have a preference for a weekender down the South Coast. Hot spots such as Kiama, Gerringong and Huskisson all experience a significant boom when times are good.
A trend has also developed recently where young Sydney singles or couples are priced out of the first home market in their desired location in Sydney. They are happy to continue to rent and live close to their work but are also eager to get into the property game. They are therefore looking to invest in a more affordable region and properties in the Illawarra are able to meet their requirements of price, return and capital growth potential.
It’s often been said by property professionals that there can be anywhere from a one to six month lag between the Sydney and Illawarra property markets.
If this is true, those in the region will benefit from a heads up when the market eventually steadies itself.
Traditionally a steel region, the Illawarra property market has often ebbed and flowed with the strength of the mining and steel industries. These are diminishing as the local economy transitions to a region whose emerging and substantial drivers are education, tourism and aged care. Recent growth in the health and aged care industry and further development of world class tertiary education infrastructure attracting domestic and international students are testament to this successful regional strategy.
Nowra township and surrounds, (Shoalhaven City Council) traditionally a region underpinned by defence force employment, has benefited in particular from its recent discovery by Sydney buyers, which is assisting in diversifying the workforce so that the property market no longer feels the effects of a downturn within a particular industry so acutely.