If you are moving to a new city or state, then the golden maxim is ‘try before you buy’. After all, you don’t want to buy somewhere that you end up hating and be thousands of dollars out of pocket to relocate.
Julie Hanley, principal of Relocations Specialists in Sydney, says you should not buy in the first 12 months of moving to a location as you “need to get a feel of the area”.
But whether you are choosing to rent or to buy, you still need to do your research.
Do your research
One way is to employ the services of a relocation agent whose role is to ask you questions about your needs and wants and then recommend suitable areas which they will show you around.
Hanley says a one-day orientation from the Relocation Specialists to check out suitable areas will cost $1210 (incl. GST). A full service, which includes an orientation, meetings with estate agents to view properties (there are no kickbacks, she stresses), meetings with local schools, organising leasing arrangements and more, may set you back about $4400 (incl. GST) if you are coming from overseas or $3850 (incl. GST) if it is a national relocation.
“Mostly companies pay these fees,” says Hanley. “Very few private individuals will pay as they cannot see the value, although if they spent one day going to open for inspections to view properties, they soon would.”
Researching on the web
If you prefer to do your own research, then there are a number of websites such as RP Data and Australian Property Monitors that can provide you with useful information through suburb profiles.
According to APM’s economist Matthew Bell, there are four key priorities that people cite when choosing a new area. In order of importance they are schools; security and safety for the family; transport and shopping; and then jobs and recreation. “People are happy to travel to work,” says Bell.
The websites can also show you the demographics of an area. “You can find out what percentage of the residents owns and what percentage rents in the area, their income levels and what their occupations so that you can find out if you will be living with like-minded people,” says Mitch Koper of RP Data.
Websites like Domain.com.au will also give you snapshots of the demographics of a suburb showing age statistics, family statistics, religion, occupation, education, means of transport to work, monthly loan repayments and types of dwelling.
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Another source of information is the local real estate agents. They know the area and how the market is performing.
Many estate agents will also include profiles of the suburbs in which they operate on their websites but you can’t beat talking to them face-to-face.
You also need to know whether the area in which you are buying enjoys strong growth. After all, you don’t want property you choose to lose value or trail behind national average growth rates.
Bell says to look at sales in the last 12 to 24 months and check the capital growth.
“You want the suburb to demonstrate capital growth at least at the same rate as the city in general,” says Bell. “A suburb needs to show good median price growth.”
This information can also help you work out the best streets in the area.
Walk the walk
But no matter how comprehensive the website reports may be and how fantastic individual properties look on a website, there is nothing that can beat experiencing the area in person.
“Don’t buy without walking down the street,” warns Bell.
Buyer’s agent Patrick Bright of EPS says you need to do the inspections and do the comparisons before you finally make any decision.
Given that you are relocating in an unknown location, take your time to get to know whether the suburb matches your lifestyle. If you don’t, then it can prove a very costly exercise to sell and re-buy in a new area.