Bargains in Sydney likely as property market softens

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Sue Williams| Domain| November 28 2015

With auction clearance rates sinking, prices softening in some areas, plenty of listings, a fall in the number of buyers, and vendors keen to sell before the holidays, it looks as if the buyers who are left could be in the box seat in the lead-up to Christmas, but what to look for, and where?

The best buy will be a property where the owner has already bought another home and is now worried that they won’t offload theirs in time to cash in before the holidays begin.

“There aren’t so many buyers around at this time of year, and there are some vendors who, if they don’t sell, will just take it off the market and put it back on in February,” Hand McPhee buyers’ agent Gerry McPhee says, “but there are others who are thinking, `Oh my God, no one wants to buy my place!’ and then they’ll drop their price to sell before the market goes dead. That will be a good buy.

An added incentive is that lots of sellers are keen to settle by the end of the year to avoid paying land tax. “So if you come across a desperate vendor, make sure you’re prepared and in a position to settle in one or two weeks by making sure your finance is in order,” Intelligent Finance managing director Justin Doobov advises.

As for where to buy, auction clearance rates have fallen most sharply in the west and north-west, so sellers may be getting nervous and adjusting their prices accordingly, Domain Group senior economist Dr Andrew Wilson believes. Look closely at what’s on offer and do your research on prices to make sure you’re getting a bargain.

If you’re more interested in the popular areas of the lower north shore, inner west, east and northern beaches, there may also be some great buying. “We are seeing higher listing numbers in all those areas,” Wilson says.

“That means buyers will have a wider choice of properties and, with vendors keen to complete before the end of the year, they’re looking at a bit of a nervous wait, which might have an effect on price.”

He favours Mosman, a perennial favourite, and suburbs such as Balmain East, Strathfield, Marrickville and Leichhardt.

Ray White chairman Brian White also picks Mosman, as well as the inner suburbs, which he agrees have a good supply of homes.

“Then there are strong inner suburbs that haven’t been much on the radar, places like Glebe, Darlinghurst, Woolloomooloo and Annandale,” he says. “People traditionally haven’t been so sure about those, but now they can have much more confidence in them as offering good buying opportunities.”

Other factors need to be taken into consideration too. Areas where new infrastructure has just been announced could prove good investments in terms of strong capital growth, says Propertybuyer​ managing director Rich Harvey says.

“The new metro rail project, from Chatswood to the Bankstown line via Sydenham, should definitely be appealing to buyers around the new stations in Chatswood, Crows Nest and either Waterloo or the University of Sydney. Prices will definitely strengthen in those areas.”

Population growth areas such as Camden and Campbelltown in the south-west might also appeal, particularly to investors, but they might not immediately lead to capital growth, Harvey says.

Buyers are also now focusing on buying close to schools or within school zones, before the start of the new school year, Raine & Horne executive chairman Angus Raine says.

“On Sydney’s north shore, suburbs surrounding quality schools such as Knox, Barker, Riverview and Pymble Ladies’ College, are proving to be popular hotspots,” he says.

“The catchments for Roseville Public School, Willoughby Girls’ High School, and the North Sydney Demonstration School are also popular, with areas such as Cherrybrook, in the Hills District, seeing genuine levels of inquiry.”

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