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John McGrath
Property Expert
+ About John McGrath
About John McGrath - Founder and Executive Director, McGrath Limited

John McGrath is considered one of the most influential figures in the Australian property industry. As Founder and Executive Director of McGrath Limited, , he took McGrath Estate Agents from a lounge room start-up in 1988 to one of Australia's most successful residential real estate groups, listing McGrath Limited on the Australian Stock Exchange in November 2015.

An integrated real estate services business, McGrath today is one of the fastest growing real estate companies in Australia with a strong market presence in NSW, the ACT & Queensland, and a growing presence in Victoria.

In October 2008, John was honoured by the Real Estate Institute of NSW with the Woodrow Weight OBE Award, a lifetime achievement award for his outstanding contribution to the real estate industry.

John himself has become a spokesperson for the industry both in Australia and internationally. John has five books that have reached bestseller status including “You Don’t Have To Be Born Brilliant” and “You Inc.”. In “The Ultimate Guide to Real Estate”, John shares with the reader his invaluable knowledge on the Australian property market.

John is a Director of REA Group and also the South Sydney “Rabbitohs,” which is one of his great passions.

Sydney buyers head to South Coast

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

By John McGrath

The latest Regional Market Update from CoreLogic shows Wollongong and Shellharbour have recorded impressive price growth of late, largely driven by Sydneysiders relocating to the south coast as the post-boom ripple effect gets underway.

It’s very common in the immediate period after a capital city’s boom to see buyers flocking to nearby regional centres within commuting distance back to the city. In the case of Sydney, it is typically the Blue Mountains, Wollongong, the Central Coast and Newcastle that benefit most from the ripple effect. This week, let’s drill down on the south coast.

Sydney buyers are looking south for affordability, lifestyle and investment opportunities. Among the owner-occupier buyers, some are commuting back to Sydney for work while others are seeking a permanent seachange with the hope of local employment to escape the city hustle and bustle altogether.

We’re also seeing more Sydney retirees heading to both Wollongong and Shellharbour. Now that Sydney’s four-year boom is over, they are selling their family homes for impressive prices and finding great value and lifestyle on the south coast, while still being close enough to drive back to Sydney regularly to see the grandkids. 

Here are the stats.

In the Wollongong council area, which includes Port Kembla, Bulli, Thirroul and Helensburgh at the very southern tip of Sydney, median house prices grew by 15.1% to $630,386 and apartment prices grew by 14.4% to $471,037 over the 12 months ending June 2016.

In the Shellharbour council area, which includes Shell Cove, Warilla, Oak Flats, Flinders, Blackbutt and Albion Park, median house prices grew by 13.1% to $532,463 and apartment prices grew up 12.7% to $411,958, according to CoreLogic.

I had a chat this week with one of McGrath’s Principals, Jordan Andonovski, who co-owns three of our south coast offices at Wollongong, Thirroul and a brand new one in Shellharbour. According to Jordan, all three are seeing an influx of Sydney buyers. 

Jordan says: Sydney commuter buyers are primarily coming from the western and southern suburbs and are targeting the northern areas of Wollongong including Thirroul, Bulli, Woonona and Towradgi.

“Those in Sydney’s west, who are already commuting to the CBD, are realising they can buy a home for less in Wollongong and although the commute is a bit longer, they can come home every day to a beachy lifestyle and a good-sized home on a decent block of land.

“Buyers from the Sutherland Shire have always liked Wollongong because it’s not so much of a stretch to go that bit further south for more value. They can buy a house here for the same price as a townhouse in the Shire. So after a long period of price growth in Sydney, they’re seeing an opportunity now to sell high in Sydney and upgrade here while interest rates are still extremely low. 

One of the most interesting trends our south coast offices are seeing is more people from Sydney moving to the coast because their work life has changed, with their employers allowing them to work part-time from home. This means they only have to commute a few days per week, which makes a coastal lifestyle outside the city much more appealing and manageable. 

We’ve been seeing this with semi-retired senior executives in many regional areas close to Sydney for several years, but it’s now becoming more common among young families too. Technology is enabling somewhat of a decentralisation of the workforce and regional areas close to major cities are really primed to benefit from this trend.

The $600,000 to $700,000 price range appears to be the most popular in Wollongong, according to PriceFinder data cited in the October market report of independent property valuation firm, Herron Todd White. This bracket had the highest volume of house sales in the 2016 financial year at 420 sales, according to the report.

Jordan concurs with this, with his personal team selling about 40 homes over the past three months at an average sale price of $650,000.

This sort of budget buys good quality apartments in the Wollongong CBD and older houses in areas like Figtree, which is about 4km south-west of the Wollongong CBD. Figtree has been a hot spot this year as it provides better value for buyers on tighter budgets, has some of the best schools in the Illawarra and is easily accessible to the M1 for the Sydney commute.  

Our Wollongong office is also selling a lot of apartments to investors who are finding Sydney too expensive to buy in now, with yields too low following the boom.

Jordan says: “Most apartments will deliver investors a strong rental yield, that in most cases, makes the investment very close to neutrally geared. This is very appealing to Sydney investors, who are primarily targeting older-style apartments in the late $400,000s to early $500,000s.

“We’re also seeing a lot of Sydney parents buying apartments in suburbs close to Wollongong University such as North Wollongong, Gwynneville and Keiraville. They’re buying with the intention of giving their kids somewhere to live while studying, with a view to holding the apartment as a long-term investment after their child moves on.”

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Big opportunities for first home buyers

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

By John McGrath 

With first home buying across Australia at its lowest level in more than a decade, I want to encourage young people to re-think their position and look into the grants and stamp duty concessions available to them today. 

Every single state and territory in Australia is currently offering assistance to first home buyers – and not just on new property purchases either.

Every now and then the rules change and young people need to keep abreast of these changes so they can best take advantage of them.

For example, did you know the Queensland Government has introduced a $5,000 boost to their First Home Owners’ Grant for this financial year only? This is a one-off, one-year boost to the grant from $15,000 to $20,000 that will end on June 30, 2017.

While it’s true that all grants are limited to newly-built, off-the-plan or substantially renovated properties, some stamp duty concessions apply to both new and established homes.

It’s really worth taking the time to check out exactly what assistance is available to you, especially with interest rates at such record lows and likely to stay this way indefinitely. If you put these two factors together, motivated first home buyers can do very well right now.

Although affordability is a big hurdle in cities like Sydney, I see a major opportunity ahead for young buyers in prime east coast markets.

That opportunity is the impending oversupply of new apartment stock in Melbourne, Brisbane and to a slightly lesser extent, Sydney. Where a market is oversupplied, prices fall.

It’s that simple and that means opportunities for buyers.

The impending apartment oversupply means first home buyers will be able to:

  • Buy for a better price
  • Have more negotiating power 
  • Have more choice of property available to them
  • Have more time on their side to choose their next home
  • Get tens of thousands of dollars in grants and duty concessions to assist them

Now, a few words of caution when buying in an oversupplied market.

  1. You have to be careful in your choice of location. Pick a desirable area close to amenities with easy access to major employment hubs. Once the oversupply has been absorbed (which might take a few years), prices will begin rising again in good quality suburbs.
  2. Be careful in your choice of product. Focus on good quality developments and choose an apartment that has some unique features, such as a particularly large floor plan, generous balconies or courtyards, great privacy, views or a north aspect. Avoid small uninspiring apartments in developments where every property is the same.
  3. Shop around for finance. Some lenders are avoiding certain postcodes (primarily central CBD areas) not because they’re bad areas to buy in, but because the oversupply creates too much short-term risk for the banks. So you’ll need to talk to a broker to find out which lenders are appropriate for you if you want to buy in these areas.
  4. Buy for the long term. I can’t stress this enough. The oversupply will take some time to run its course. Don’t put yourself in a situation where you need to sell during the oversupply period. Oversupplies are only advantageous to buyers. 

Here is a brief overview of the grants and stamp duty concessions available in each state and territory. For more comprehensive information, go to www.firsthome.gov.au. 

New South Wales


Name: First Home Owner Grant (New Homes) scheme

Eligible price point: $750,000 or less

Eligible properties: New homes

Amount: $10,000

Stamp duty concessions

Name: First Home – New Home scheme

Eligible price point: Full exemption up to $550,000, concessional rates for new homes valued between $550,000 and $650,000

Eligible properties: New homes 



Name: First Home Owner Grant

Eligible price point: $750,000 or less

Eligible properties: New homes

Amount: $10,000

Stamp duty concessions

Name: First home buyer duty reduction 

Eligible price point: $600,000 or less

Eligible properties: All properties

Amount: Up to 50% discount on stamp duty

Note: A second scheme called the Off-the-Plan Concession provides a further discount specifically for off-the-plan purchases



Name: First Home Owners’ Grant

Eligible price point: $750,000 or less

Eligible properties: New homes

Amount: $20,000 until June 30, 2017

Stamp duty concessions

Name: First Home Concession

Eligible price point: $550,000 or less

Eligible properties: All properties

Amount: Stamp duty exempt to $500,000, sliding scale from $500,000 - $549,000  

Note: A second scheme called the Home Concession provides stamp duty concessions on all properties at any price point purchased for owner-occupation. If your first home is above $550,000, you can apply for a concession through this scheme

Australian Capital Territory


Name: First Home Owner Grant

Eligible price point: $750,000 or less

Eligible properties: New homes

Amount: $10,000

Stamp duty concessions

Name: Home Buyer Concession Scheme

Eligible price point: Full concession up to $455,000; sliding scale to $585,000

Eligible properties: New homes 

Other criteria: Gross income thresholds apply. For example, the threshold for applicants without children is $160,000. You do not need to be a first home buyer but you cannot have owned property for the past two years

Amount: Stamp duty reduced to just $20 on properties worth $455,000 or less

Western Australia


Name: First Home Owner Grant

Eligible price point: $750,000 cap on properties south of the 26th parallel (i.e. Perth metropolitan areas) and $1 million cap on homes north of the 26th parallel

Eligible properties: New homes

Amount: $10,000


Stamp duty concessions

Name: First Home Owner Rate of Duty

Eligible price point: $530,000 or less

Eligible properties: All properties

Amount: Stamp duty exempt on homes worth $430,000 or less. Sliding scale of concessions on homes valued $431,000 - $530,000


South Australia 


Name: First Home Owner Grant

Eligible price point: $575,000 or less

Eligible properties: New homes

Amount: $15,000

Stamp duty concessions

Name: Off-the-Plan Apartment Concession

Eligible price point: No threshold

Eligible properties: Off-the-plan apartments

Amount: Partial concessions available until June 30, 2017. Amount depends on the stage of construction at the time of purchase

Northern Territory


Name: First Home Owner Grant 

Eligible price point: No threshold

Eligible properties: New homes

Amount: $26,000 plus a further grant of up to $2,000 under the Household Goods Grant Scheme

Stamp duty concessions

Name: First Home Owner Discount

Eligible price point: $650,000 or less

Eligible properties: Established properties

Amount: Stamp duty exempt up to $500,000; sliding scale to $650,000. Flat $10,000 duty discount for homes worth more than $650,000



Name: First Home Owner Grant

Eligible price point: No threshold

Eligible properties: New homes

Amount: $20,000 until June 30, 2017 and $10,000 from July 1, 2017

Stamp duty concessions

None available 

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Strata law overhaul to improve apartment living in NSW

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

By John McGrath

The biggest overhaul of NSW strata laws in four decades is about to make apartment and townhouse living that much easier for more than a quarter of the state’s population who own, rent or manage strata properties. 

More than 90 individual changes to strata legislation have been approved by the NSW Government following five years of public consultation. During that time, they received 3,000 submissions, indicating a lot of interest in the community and a genuine need for change.

Most of the changes are effective from November 30. Not only are there changes for owners, but tenants are included too, which is an important step given the rising number of people renting their homes these days. 

One of the most important changes relates to renovations, making the process easier for owners and removing unnecessary red tape. Owners will no longer need permission for things like installing handrails or picture hooks. They will only need 50% support for minor renovations such as installing timber floorboards or renovating a kitchen, and structural renovations will still require 75%.

Owners can set a broader range of community rules, such as allowing or restricting pet ownership, classifying smoking as a nuisance (thus enabling more action to be taken against residents whose smoke drifts into neighbouring abodes), and paying the local council to issue parking fines for unauthorised use of common property, such as visitors’ parking spaces. 

There are some common sense changes in relation to how a strata property is run, such as allowing owners to use technology to communicate on issues, participate in meetings and cast their vote. This includes the use of social media, video and teleconferencing, electronic voting and distributing papers via email. 

‘Proxy farming’ will end with owners restricted to only one proxy vote for strata schemes of fewer than 20 lots, or 5% of the scheme for larger lots.

Tenants will have the right to attend owners’ corporation meetings, but won’t be able to speak or vote unless they hold a proxy on behalf of an owner. The owners’ corporation can vote to allow a tenant to speak on a particular matter and if more than 50% of the building is tenanted, a tenant representative can be nominated as a non-voting member of the ‘strata committee’ (previously called the ‘executive committee’). 

A controversial change is the ability for 75% of the owners’ corporation to decide to sell or redevelop their building instead of the previous requirement of unanimous consent.

This could facilitate a major rejuvenation of housing stock in desirable, established areas where 1960s and 1970s apartment stock is common. The opportunity to develop in prime locations will no doubt be more appealing to developers than greenfield opportunities in Sydney’s city fringes.

Owners might be able to sell collectively for a much higher price than they could achieve individually, particularly in the case of blocks on very large lots where the land has not been well utilised. For example, a block of 50 might be able to be replaced with a new block of 150 if the site allows for it, and this sort of scenario would likely result in premium offers from developers.

At an academic level, this sort of change reflects the challenges we face in accommodating a growing population, particularly in Sydney. We do need to think differently and creatively in order to house an expected 1.7 million new residents over the next two decades. But you can’t ignore the plight of owners who don’t want to sell in this circumstance. The new law says they pretty much have to live with the majority decision, or take their argument to court, and this won’t sit well with many people. 

Any plan to sell or renew a building will have to be approved by the Land and Environment Court and owners must receive at least the market value of their lot plus extra money to cover moving costs and other expenses but still, it’s a harsh reality for dissenting owners. To this end, the Fair Trading Department will set up an advocacy program for vulnerable and elderly residents to provide free advice and referrals to support services.

In the lead-up to November 30, the Fair Trading Department is running a series of community seminars to help people understand the changes. For more information on the changes and the dates of future community seminars, go to fairtrading.nsw.gov.au.

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More gain than pain in real estate

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

By John McGrath

New research from CoreLogic shows property continues to provide excellent wealth creation for owner-occupiers and investors alike – as long as you make smart decisions both at the time of purchase and also when selling.  

The Pain and Gain Report, released late last month, shows the average capital gain earned by capital city vendors who sold their house for a profit during the June quarter was $363,442. For capital city apartment sellers, the average gain was $229,596.

In regional markets, the average capital gain on houses sold for a profit was $154,773 and $107,680 on apartments. 

Now that’s the ‘gain’ side of the equation. The report also gives us the ‘pain’ side, that being the re-sale losses where homes were sold for less than their purchase price. 

Overall, 5.9% of houses and 9.5% of apartments sold in capital city markets in June were sold at a loss. The average loss on houses was $94,936 and it was $67,456 for apartments. The capital cities where the most re-sale losses occurred were Perth and Darwin. 

In regional markets, 12.2% of houses and 19.9% of apartments sold below their purchase price. The average loss on houses was $64,423 and it was $61,944 for apartments. The area that experienced the most re-sale losses was, by far, regional Western Australia.

As you can see, there’s generally more gain than pain in property, but statistics like this do remind us that it’s possible to lose money if you make the wrong choices. Thankfully, they’re pretty easy to avoid. 

The biggest contributing factors to re-sale losses in real estate are as follows: 

1. Selling too soon after purchasing

For the ordinary buyer, real estate should always be a long-term play. Buy it, sit on it, maybe make some improvements along the way and don’t sell for at least 7-10 years. I say this because on average over the past century, Australian property values have pretty much doubled during this sort of timeframe. Given the costs of buying in, you don’t want to get out until you’ve made some really good money, so a good rule of thumb is a minimum 7-10 years because this is usually enough time for a full-growth cycle to occur. 

If you get really lucky and buy just before a boom, you might be able to sell in a shorter timeframe and still make great money, but even so, I still recommend holding for as long as you can to truly maximise your overall gain. 

2. Buying in second-tier locations

This can be avoided through rigorous research.

Don’t buy in towns with declining populations or areas that rely on just one or two major industries, particularly volatile industries such as mining and tourism. When it comes to choosing areas within a suburb, or particular streets, talk to agents and become an expert on your target neighbourhood to ensure you make the right purchasing decision.

3. Stretching your budget too far

When buying, don’t stretch your budget beyond what is reasonable for your circumstances. Look ahead 7-10 years. Can you afford the loan repayments at 7-8% interest (the long-term average)? Can you keep up the repayments if you lose your job or take time off to have a baby, for example? Do you have enough savings for other unexpected costs? You need a ‘yes’ answer to all these questions before you buy. If not, the likelihood is you’ll end up selling simply to liquidate funds and that will usually involve a loss.

Real estate is an expensive asset class, but it’s also one of the safest and most reliable vehicles to wealth creation in Australia. If you keep it simple – buy good quality property in good quality locations and hold for the long term, you have every reason to expect a very positive outcome. 

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Confidence lifts in prestige property market

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

By John McGrath

The big news in Sydney real estate right now is the listing of John Symond’s renowned Point Piper estate, which is expected to sell for a new national record price. 

I remember when John bought this property in 1999 for over $10 million and soon after commenced one of the biggest and most elaborate builds the Sydney market has ever seen.

It took five years to create the magnificent estate, which sits on about 2,675 sqm of land with one of the largest waterfrontages along Point Piper’s western edge. This is the most desired position because it faces the city, Opera House and Harbour Bridge.

The mega listing is symbolic of rising confidence and excitement in the prestige market today. There have been some big deals this year, not to mention a few record sales, in many markets across the country.

Gold Coast in focus

The stand-out is the Gold Coast, where there have been very few sales above $10 million since 2009 but all of a sudden this year, we’ve had six above $10 million, a seventh which is under contract, and several more sales in the $5 million to $10 million range.

The GFC hit this market harder than any other in Australia, but prestige buyers are most definitely back in 2016. So far this year, the biggest sale has been a $25 million deal at Mermaid Beach this month. There have been five other sales above $10 million across the central and northern sections of the coast, and most of them have been to local buyers.

I can’t emphasise enough the importance of this. Chinese buyers are still active but it’s the locals who are dominating on the Gold Coast and this signals a change in confidence and that prestige buyers obviously see value and opportunity at the moment. 

The prestige sector is overdue for growth and it’s great to see more sales and new benchmarks being set this year.

Other markets

In Melbourne, a new record was set in June, with a $24.1 million sale in prestigious Toorak. There was also a $33 million multi-purchase deal of three lots in South Yarra in March.

In Brisbane, the highest sale is $10.5 million for a house in New Farm in September.

In Sydney, the highest sale so far this year is $21 million in Point Piper in May, closely followed by a $20.3 million exchange in February for a house in Vaucluse. (There was also a $33 million settlement in Rose Bay in February on a property bought a few years ago).

The benchmark sale of the year is the $80 million multi-purchase of four lots in Vaucluse in April.  

When people are spending multi-millions in prestige real estate, it gives confidence to the rest of the market. And as Australia’s international reputation continues to grow, and given the value on offer compared to London, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Hong Kong and Singapore, I think we’ll also see more international buyers investing here in the future.

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Property hotspots: Key regional markets

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

By John McGrath 

The ripple effect is being felt in key regional markets surrounding Sydney and Melbourne following a four year boom that has sent home values skyward by 64% and 44% respectively.  

After that sort of growth, it’s not surprising that some city dwellers are looking to nearby regional centres for better value. Some are buying for a lifestyle change as well as more affordable property prices, while others are using sizeable new equity in their city homes to purchase for investment or holiday purposes.

All of this is pretty predictable at the end of a boom, and the latest Regional Market Update from CoreLogic shows it’s occurring now.

What the research says

The research looks at a variety of key regional locations and reports a noticeable pattern of growth in centres located closest to Sydney and Melbourne.

The stand-out is the Illawarra region on the south coast of NSW, which recorded the biggest increase at 14.3% for houses and 13.9% for apartments over the 12 months ending June 2016.

In Newcastle and Lake Macquarie, sales activity is down, but prices have moved forward by 8.9% for houses and 5.9% for apartments. In the Richmond-Tweed, both house and apartment prices are up 8.4% and sales activity is almost 20% above its five- year average.

These aren’t boom time price rises, but definitely good solid price appreciation that is likely to continue as Sydney’s growth cycle slows down.

In Victoria’s Geelong, houses prices rose 5.6% and apartments 3.4%. The Latrobe-Gippsland region also experienced a price bump of 3.9% for houses and 0.6% for apartments.

Now, a word about Queensland.

The two major regional markets close to Brisbane are the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast, and they were the strongest performing areas in the state over the year to June.

But they’re not feeding off lack of affordability in Brisbane, because the city hasn’t boomed yet. It’s had steady price growth for the past few years, but nothing near the scale of Sydney and Melbourne as yet.

Local drivers

So at the moment, price growth on the Sunshine Coast and Gold Coast is largely down to local factors.

On the Sunshine Coast, the effect of the new University Hospital on the property market cannot be overstated. That one major project has brought a lot of confidence to the area and a huge injection of professional jobs once it opens next year.

We’re also seeing local upgraders and seachangers from Sydney and Melbourne buying for a lifestyle change now, or holiday homes with a view to living there in retirement. There was 4% growth in house prices and 4.5% growth in apartment prices over the year.

On the Gold Coast, there’s lots of excitement in the lead-up to the 2018 Commonwealth Games, with plenty of infrastructure being built that will serve the city long after the event.

There are cranes in the sky along the waterfront as both local and Chinese developers continue to build. Price growth over the year to June was 7.4% to a median of $573,000.

Apartment values rose 5% to $377,000.

By comparison, over the same timeframe, Brisbane house prices rose 5.6% to a median of $505,000 and apartments rose 2.4% to $389,000.

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The world's most liveable cities

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

By John McGrath

Liveability or lifestyle is an absolute priority for today’s buyers. People are far more discerning about what they want in terms of their location and the type of home they live in. 

It’s largely a subjective thing, but the fun part is deciding what represents liveability best to you. 

Do you love the hustle and bustle of apartment living in the city? Or being close to the beach? Or does a slower pace of life on acreage sound better? It’s entirely your call. 

On a global scale, the Economist Intelligence Unit recently released its annual World’s Most Liveable Cities Index, which surveyed 140 cities based on 30 factors across five key areas – stability, education, infrastructure, health and environment. 

Right at the top – once again, is Melbourne. It took out the No 1 spot for the sixth year in a row. Two other Australian cities are in the Top 10 – Adelaide and Perth. 

Sydney dropped out of the Top 10 this year to No 11 over perceived fears of terrorism threats following the Lindt Café siege. It still received an impressive score of 94.9 out of 100. Brisbane also made the list at No 16. 

Here’s the Top 10. 

World’s Most Liveable Cities Index 

  1. Melbourne, Australia  
  2. Vienna, Austria
  3. Vancouver, Canada 
  4. Toronto, Canada
  5. Calgary, Canada
  6. Adelaide, Australia 
  7. Perth, Australia 
  8. Auckland, New Zealand 
  9. Helsinki, Finland 
  10. Hamburg, Germany 

Source: Economist Intelligence Unit 

The five key areas assessed in the study are pretty much universally valued by all buyers – stability, education, infrastructure, health and environment. The next layer is the street-level factors that make individual suburbs more liveable than others.  

Domain recently ranked 555 suburbs in Sydney based on 16 liveability indicators that included more localised elements such as proximity to employment hubs, traffic, views, cultural amenities like theatres, open space, tree cover, local cafes and restaurants, Wi-Fi coverage and access to the beach. 

Here’s the Top 10. 

Sydney’s Most Liveable Suburbs 

  1. Lavender Bay
  2. Milsons Point
  3. McMahons Point
  4. Kirribilli
  5. Waverton
  6. Wollstonecraft
  7. North Sydney
  8. Millers Point 
  9. Elizabeth Bay 
  10. Darling Point 

Source: Domain 

Another popular measure of liveability today is being walking distance to key amenities. 

As society gets more and more time-poor and congestion on our roads gets worse, buyers are placing a higher value on being able to walk to shops, transport, beaches and recreational facilities such as parks, cinemas and cafes. 

The Walk Score is a great tool for assessing walkability. You can search suburbs and cities all over the world at www.walkscore.com. Here are the Top 10 suburbs in our east coast capital cities. 

Top 10 Most Walkable Suburbs


  1. Haymarket
  2. The Rocks
  3. Sydney
  4. Ultimo
  5. Surry Hills
  6. Chippendale
  7. Millers Point
  8. Darlinghurst
  9. Newtown
  10. Rushcutters Bay


  1. Carlton
  2. Fitzroy
  3. Fitzroy North
  4. Melbourne
  5. St Kilda
  6. South Yarra
  7. East Melbourne
  8. South Melbourne
  9. Collingwood
  10. Windsor


  1. Brisbane City
  2. Fortitude Valley
  3. Spring Hill
  4. South Brisbane
  5. Petrie Terrace
  6. New Farm
  7. Teneriffe
  8. West End
  9. Milton
  10. Woolloongabba

Source: walkscore.com 

When buying your next property, make sure you consider liveability. It might be a beautiful house, but if walking the kids to school and strolling to the shops are high priorities, make sure the property’s location enables you to do that. 

When buying real estate, you’ll always have to make compromises because no property is perfect. Just remember, you can change a property but you can’t change its location – and it’s location that has the biggest impact on liveability. 

So my advice is to be clear about your own priorities before making such an important decision.

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Property to Spring into action

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

By John McGrath

Welcome to the first week of the Spring market!

It’s the busiest time of the year for our industry and an exciting time for buyers and sellers, as more properties come onto the market and sales activity increases.

In Sydney, this Spring is going to be very important. The city has experienced a significant shortages of homes for sale all year, and hopefully, Spring will end the drought.

According to the latest stats from CoreLogic, new listings in Sydney are down 27% on last year. By comparison, new listings in Melbourne are down 16% and Brisbane listings are down 5%.  

Stock shortages make life very hard for buyers and sellers, because although sellers can usually sell at a premium, the trouble is buying back in. They don’t want to risk having to rent and move house twice, so many hold off.

That leaves buyers having to compete for a very small amount of stock. It’s very frustrating, and sometimes, they have to pay much more to secure their new home.  

Eventually, this market stand-off ends and Spring should provide the impetus this year. People love selling in Spring, they love the change of season and they’re generally aiming to buy again in time to enjoy Christmas and the end-of-year school holidays in their new home.

Clearance rates will be an important market indicator to watch this Spring.

Sydney’s weekend clearance rates have been high all year – I’m talking boom-level high – in the 70-80% bracket for most of 2016.

If there’s a substantial lift in stock, it will be interesting to see if the clearance rate holds firm, or starts to fall. A fall would indicate supply is starting to meet or exceed demand.

Over the past few years, the pattern we’ve seen is a rush of new stock in September, with even more homes coming onto the market in October/November, at which point we get a softening in prices. In the New Year, old stock gets absorbed and we go back to a state of demand exceeding supply by around March.

Some time soon, after four-and-a-half years of boom growth in 2012-2015 and steady growth in 2016, that’s going to change. I don’t know if 2017 will be the year in which we see a return to truly normal market conditions, but I can guarantee that change is coming soon. That’s the nature of cyclical markets like property.  

One interesting trend for Spring this year is the spike in the number of apartments for sale, mainly in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.

This was entirely expected and it usually always happens after a boom.

When markets boom, developers begin building, but the long process means there’s usually a hangover of great new stock that hits the market after the boom ends. Not only that, there’s also the risk that some people, especially investors who purchased off-the-plan a year or so ago, won’t complete their purchase because they start worrying about the oversupply effect, not just on their asset’s value, but also its rentability. So they sell too, which adds more stock to the market.

New research from CoreLogic shows that across the combined capital cities, about 36% of homes for sale in July were apartments, compared to 26% five years ago.

In Sydney, about 45% of homes for sale were apartments, up from 40% last year and 35% in 2011. In Brisbane, 26% of homes for sale were apartments, up from 22% last year and 19% in 2011. In Melbourne, almost half or 49% of all properties for sale were apartments. A year ago it was 42%, and in 2011, it was 29%.

It might sound like our east coast cities are facing a massive oversupply, but it’s important to remember than the bulk of apartment development right now is centred around CBDs and inner-city suburbs. These are prime locations and highly desirable over the long term. I see great opportunity for apartment owner-occupiers over the next two years. You’ll be spoilt for choice and have negotiating power on your side.

My overall prediction for Spring 2016 is a strong season, with early Spring sellers benefitting most from the shortage of stock that will probably still be felt in September.

There will be a pause in the market over the school holidays in late September/early October, before the bulk of Spring’s new listings come onto the market.

I wish both buyers and sellers all the best for the Spring period.

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Why is off-market selling on the rise?

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

By John McGrath

You might have heard about off-market selling, where a property is sold without any public advertising. This only happens with a very small percentage of properties overall, but we’re definitely seeing it a bit more often in major metro markets these days. 

There are significant risks for vendors who choose to go this way, because without going on the open market, there’s no way to ensure every possible buyer has seen your property. And you need competition to flush out the maximum price that your home is worth. 

But for some vendors, this risk is worth it. There are some circumstances where the importance of getting a deal done quickly for a reasonable price outweighs the alternative of going to the open market and negotiating with buyers over several weeks for the best price. Such circumstances include relationship breakdown and financial stress. 

Other vendors like off-market selling because it enables privacy. This is often the main priority for prestige clients. They typically don’t need a quick deal and are happy to wait for a good offer while avoiding public advertising campaigns and the intrusion of opens. They will list with an agent who will then work their database to find suitable buyers. 

Some clients list off-market just to test the waters, in the hope their dream price will be offered. In the lower- to middle-market, some vendors go off-market because their property is tenanted and they can’t get access to style and prepare the property for a photo shoot.

Others do it purely to avoid the cost of a marketing campaign, but ultimately, I think sellers pay for this strategy with a reduced sale price due to reduced competition. 

So why is off-market selling on the rise? 

The primary reason is that agents have created the ability to sell without advertising through database marketing. 

The old way – placing ads in the paper and waiting for buyers to come to you, is over. The best agents are going after buyers themselves and dedicating more time to developing personal relationships with the purchasers they meet at opens and online. 

Another reason is the growth of the buyers’ agent industry. They were once only used by prestige buyers, but today, they are also very popular with time-poor families, couples, and executive singles purchasing in the lower to middle price brackets too. 

Smart selling agents love buyers’ agents because they’re a direct avenue to highly motivated purchasers ready to buy now. That’s helpful when your vendor needs to sell quickly, for example. 

Buyers’ agents are also being increasingly proactive in approaching home owners directly to see if they’re interested in selling – especially in markets that are undersupplied. This often occurs when a client wants to live on a particular street, or they have identified specific houses that they are interested in.

Owners are often open to selling in such circumstances if the buyer is willing to pay big. There’s also the ‘bonus’, as the seller might perceive it, of no selling agents’ fees. However, this scenario only works if they get a true premium price above market value. 

My general advice to sellers is to look carefully at the pros and cons if you’re considering selling off-market. In my opinion, there are more cons, as you’re highly likely not to get the best price for your property. 

There is no doubt that putting your home on the open market, with appropriate print and online marketing, is the best way to achieve the best price.  

If you do go off-market, select your agent carefully. Make sure you’re investing in someone who is going to put in the time and energy to match your property to suitable buyers and call them individually to discuss your home – not just send a group email with a brochure attached. 

Lastly, buyers can get access to off-market opportunities by engaging with selling agents and having their criteria registered on their databases; or by employing a buyers’ agent. 

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Suburbs with million-dollar medians

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

By John McGrath 

During my 30 years in real estate, I’ve seen a lot of changes in the marketplace.

As a young agent in Sydney back in the 1980s, if I was dealing with a millionaire client, I was dealing with someone from the upper echelon of society. Some type of high-profile businessperson, investor, or someone with family money.

Today, in most cases, one million dollars is the typical budget for a family home. And according to new statistics, it’s also the median price in 613 suburbs nationwide.

Independent analysts, CoreLogic, have just released their latest stats on suburbs with million-dollar medians.

They looked at the median sale price of every suburb across Australia and found that there were 613 suburbs with a median value of at least $1m – more than double the number of suburbs in 2013 and 29% more than last year.

Among the 613 suburbs, 570 had a median house price above $1m and 43 had a median apartment price above $1m. (By the way, to keep things accurate, CoreLogic only included suburbs that had recorded at least 100 sales.)

What happened? Well, a boom happened. A massive one. In fact, the latest numbers put the increase in property values over the past four years since this current growth cycle began at 61.3% for Sydney, and 42% for Melbourne.

Tasmania remains the only state with not a single suburb median above $1m. No wonder they’re getting more enquiries down there from Sydney and Melbourne downsizers who are keen to escape the expensive capital cities for gorgeous scenery and a cooler climate.

In terms of the states with the highest number of $1m suburbs, of course New South Wales leads with 418, followed by 102 in Victoria, 44 in Western Australia, 19 in Queensland, 15 in South Australia, 12 in the Australian Capital Territory and three in the Northern Territory.

Let’s take a look at the Top 25 suburbs with the highest median prices in Australia. Only two are outside Sydney – Toorak in Victoria and Peppermint Grove in Western Australia.

Top 25 most expensive suburbs

To round out the national picture:

  • The most expensive suburb in Queensland is Teneriffe (median $1.645m for houses)
  • The most expensive suburb in South Australia is Springfield (median $1.737m for houses)
  • The most expensive suburb in the Northern Territory is Larrakeyah (median $1.197m for houses)
  • The most expensive suburb in the Australian Capital Territory is Forrest (median $2.068m for houses)

CoreLogic also tells us that the number of homes selling for $2 million or more is on the rise.

When the growth cycle started in mid-2012, there had been 4,103 sales of $2 m or more across 884 suburbs in the preceding 12 months. By comparison, in the year to March 2016, there were 11,648 sales across 1,437 suburbs.

So what does all of this mean?

On the one side, there’s the affordability issue – yes, it’s getting worse in Sydney.

On the flipside, the rising number of million dollar suburbs means rising wealth for home owners. So in my mind, being a property owner certainly has its rewards.

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