Though the suburbs buyers choose nowadays are vastly different to those chosen by the last generation, the desire to live close to work remains one of the consistent demand drivers for real estate in this city.
Saturday Domain takes a look at some of Melbourne’s suburbs that have been reinvented since the 1950s and talks to the experts about when their ‘hood became hot property.
SEDDON & YARRAVILLE:
As a wider region, Melbourne’s western suburbs have undergone this generation’s greatest reinvention. Led by Yarraville and Seddon, which is actually a pocket of Footscray, values in the inner-west are catching up to other central suburbs such as Northcote, Brunswick and Prahran, which are also about six kilometres from the centre of town.
Veteran Footscray real estate agent Frank Trimboli, who has walked the Seddon beat as director of Frank Trimboli Real Estate for almost 50 years, says the tide turned for the inner-western suburbs at about the time Crown Casino opened at the World Trade Centre building in Docklands (1994).
“Once it opened, a wave of casino employees moved to the area because they found it a compelling living option, a five-minute drive from work,” says Mr Trimboli.
He remembers a time in the early 1960s when homeowners in the area were reluctant to undertake any maintenance work on their homes for fear of overcapitalising.
“At that stage, you couldn’t give homes away in Seddon, or Yarraville,” Mr Trimboli says.
He says from the 1960s through to the 1980s, the area around Pilgrim and Austin streets was reserved for a new road, which meant little maintenance work was undertaken on homes in the area. Most were acquired cheaply by investors.
“When the road reservation policy was expunged (after the Western Ring Road was proposed), homeowners started undertaking major redevelopment and restoration of their Seddon properties,” he says. “In many ways, it’s been a great thing because the streets around Seddon and Yarraville train stations have been relatively untouched by development.”
Like many planners and developers, Mr Trimboli is baffled that so much of West Melbourne – between the Bolte Bridge and the Maribyrnong River – consists of warehouses and factories.
“No other city in the world would allow waterfront properties, close to the CBD and public transport, to go under-utilised as they are in West Melbourne and South Kensington.”
It’s only recently – in the past 20 years or so – that Box Hill has shed its reputation as the poorer sister of neighbour Surrey Hills.
Fletchers real estate director Tim Heavyside believes Box Hill is now a “choice” suburb in its own right. This compares to the 1980s, when prospective buyers seemed intent on buying into Mont Albert, Surrey Hills or Balwyn, and reluctantly settled in Box Hill.
Mr Heavyside says this mentality affected Box Hill property prices, which were relatively under-valued. He says the tide started to turn before the 2001 property boom.
The Box Hill specialist says the suburb offers Federation, Edwardian, Victorian, art deco, pre- and post-war styles. He says homes are usually on big blocks of land and near the school belt, including Box Hill High, Balwyn High, Xavier College and Carey Grammar. “Buyers who inspect in Box Hill are often surprised to find how tightly held the market is,” he says.
Mr Heavyside says a modern home on a standard block of 600square metres sold last month for $1.116million, which he believes set a record price for a residential house in the suburb.
The opening of Box Hill Hospital in 1956 was considered the turning point for the wider Box Hill area, which also includes Box Hill North and Box Hill South. Mr Heavyside says the hospital started a development boom in the suburb 50 years ago that hasn’t stopped.
Like many inner-city areas, residential growth in Box Hill has been supported by migrants. Mr Heavyside says Box Hill has had a rich history of Chinese, Vietnamese, Italian and Greek influences. Since the 1980s, Box Hill has also established one of the biggest suburban office markets outside the CBD.
History could be in the making for Box Hill, with the Whitehorse City Council at present reviewing plans to develop a 38-level high-rise building on the corner of Station Street and Carrington Road. The tower would be the tallest outside central Melbourne.
Disgruntled buyers who missed out on a lottery to buy Mirvac’s Beacon Cove homes in the mid-1990s struck gold when they drove off – only to discover there were other, relatively more undervalued parts of Port Melbourne, which had a lot of character.
Chisholm & Gamon sales executive Christine Nicholson says it took Beacon Cove, a housing estate built over a former BP oil refinery, to put Port Melbourne, and the quaint pocket of Garden City, “on the map”.
She says a conga line of teenyboppers stretching between Bridge Street and Beaconsfield Parade to enjoy Saturday nights at the Flower Hotel also contributed to changing perceptions of the area from an industrial hub to a fashionable place to live.
The Garden City pocket of Port Melbourne includes streets around Sandridge Beach, west of Beacon Cove, and the streets north-west and north of Beacon Cove, part of the historic Bank House Estate.
In 1988, Bank House homes were pushing $100,000 in value. By 1998, this increased to between $350,000 to $450,000. Today, a restored three or four-bedroom home there could fetch between $950,000 and $1.4 million.
Ms Nicholson says she is surprised it took so long for buyers to discover the many attractions of Port Melbourne.
“My mum nearly cried when she saw what I bought in Port in the mid 1980s – a syringe-filled, druggy flop house with an outside loo,” she says. “As she was prone to remind me, I could have bought a five-bedroom mansion with four bathrooms, a billiards room and a quadruple garage in Hoppers Crossing with the same money.”
Today, developers can’t get enough of Port Melbourne – and there are a lot more residents taking advantage of the view, thanks to hundreds of new apartments built since 1996.
Last month, developer Central Equity sold an important Bay Street site to developer Valad Property Group and Pomeroy Pacific, which plan to build apartments and an office building.
“I had to explain to people where Clifton Hill was,” resident and Collins Simms real estate agent Peter Bennett reminisces, after buying into the riverside suburb more than 30 years ago.
“In the 1970s, Carlton was considered the seed ‘inner-city’ suburb people wanted to live in,” says Mr Bennett. “People might have compromised and settled on Fitzroy, but beyond that, no other inner-northern suburb was in high demand. Only as Carlton and Fitzroy became more expensive, in the 1990s, did prospective buyers find their way to Clifton Hill,” he says.
For an inner suburb, Clifton Hill has a relatively large selection of double-fronted, three-bedroom houses. These attract families that have outgrown single-fronted terraces in nearby suburbs, including Abbotsford, Richmond, Carlton and Fitzroy.
But family home buyers must be prepared to wait for an opportunity. Unlike in the 1970s, Mr Bennett says a double-fronted house in Clifton Hill is now a quarterly, rather than monthly, event.
One of Clifton Hill’s most recent controversial developments happened about 15 years ago, when a former council-owned plant nursery on Walker Street, and overlooking Quarries Park and Merri Creek, was sold for housing. Mr Bennett says most of Clifton Hill is protected by a heritage overlay, preventing the area from major residential redevelopment.
He says Clifton Hill’s most sought-after streets are Hodgkinson and Gold streets. East of Hoddle Street, he says buyers pay a premium for Walker, Wright, O’Grady and Spensley streets.