Learning more about the Australia property market

Visited the "Home Buyer & Property Investor Show" in Sydney last week and found it quite worthwhile. The show claims to be the largest of its kind, with professions across the trade there and many good seminars with some great speakers.

I learned a lot from the seminars and the brochures, magazines, and book given out at the show. It's a great way to quickly ramp up on knowledge about (Australia) real estates when you know very little. Here are I note some of my learning and thoughts.

The first is the multitude of  professions in the industry and the values they can bring. Buyer's agent, for example, is quite new to me, but it does seem reasonable that they can potentially save clients' time and money and also reduce risks in buying properties. Their service do seem attractive to busy professionals like me, although I am somewhat concerned on the flat fee it charges. The flat fee is certainly better than charging on percentage of final purchase price (which will reduce the incentive for buyer's agent to negotiate prices), but it also leaves no monetary incentives for a higher quality service. I feel they should consider defining a set of key metrics that can reflect the quality of the property acquisition process and discuss with their clients in their first meetings the expectations and also the "bonuses" for exceeding expectations in the key metrics.

I am surprised by the professional renovators trade. The chapter, "Renovating for profit," by Stephen Tolle and Cherie Barber in Think and Grow Rich Property is quite a good read. It's clear that professional renovators has the potential to bring value, as all of identifying properties suitable for renovation, planning the structural and/or cosmetic renovation, getting development approval, purchasing materials, managing and executing the renovation, etc. are complex tasks that need a lot of knowledge and expertise to yield low cost and quality results. It can be a win-win if the renovator is capable and content, but a greedy renovator can use cheaper stuffs that look shiny on the surface to lure less knowledgeable buyers for a huge profit. To avoid this, buyers should learn to look through the real value of a property and should choose renowned renovators that have years of good reputation.

Looking through the property data of all Australia suburbs is also very worthwhile. It provides a high level overview of the current status of the Australia property market with median prices, recent growths, weekly rentals, and numbers sold for units and houses in each one of the suburbs.

From the numbers it looks like some Sydney suburbs are the most expensive in the whole  country, with median house prices of over $2M in good areas close to beaches such as Bellevue Hill.
The http://www.living-in-sydney.com/ site hosts a map that shows all the suburbs in Sydney (small version on the right). It's only by looking at such maps and the property data do you appreciate the size of the real estate market.

Finally, I would like to express my concern that the many professionals in or entering the property market is making housing more of a means to get rich as opposed to shelter for all (see also an article on ANZ head's views on negative gearing). I would really like people of knowledge and power to work towards helping everyone getting a good, affordable home.


Oaks Goldsbrough Apartments

Before buying a place it's important to do as much research as possible. This is especially important for me as I am totally new to Australia. To learn as much as possible, one strategy is to really live in different places from time to time in target areas to learn everything about the target areas and their neighbourhood (in addition to inspecting properties everywhere where possible whenever you have time of course).

The photos here shows one of the places I've stayed -- Oaks Goldsbrough Apartments in Darling Habour. I likes its
  • location, with a walkway connection that allows you to walk directly to the Convention station;
  • tall ceiling -- much breathable compared to units in Taiwan;
  • furnished w/ everything needed -- laundry, full kitchen; and there's heated pool and gym at 1F;
  • not expensive (consider it's close to Sydney CBD) at <$500 a week rent and selling at ~$300K.

There are several things I don't like though, such as:
  • poor "view" -- especially in my unit where windows either face  the interior building corridors or a narrow firebreak alley -- little privacy;
  • poor noise insulation -- (newer) buildings in Taiwan are doing much better at this

So I'll continue to do my research and inspect / live in different places. Maybe I'll end up signing up for a buyer's agent when I really want to buy a home, but it's still good to know as much as possible.