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How to choose the perfect suburb when buying a home

By Rachel Wallace

There are thousands of suburbs across Australia, and hundreds in each capital city alone. How can buyers whittle down this long list to their favourite few before they start their property search?

Start with your budget

There’s no escaping the critical role buyers’ budgets play in narrowing the field.

“Fundamentally, budget is a major driver that will determine where you can and can’t go,” says Raine & Horne’s network manager for NSW and the ACT, Travis Wentriro.

You can find the median prices for units and houses in any Australian suburb on Domain, which can serve as a starting point to figure out which suburbs you can afford.

If you have your heart set on certain suburbs and find they are beyond your budget, check out the neighbouring suburbs. In fact, the founder of Cherish Property buyers’ agency, Tracy Leske, encourages buyers to look for suburbs on the verge of areas that have experienced price increases to give them a better opportunity for future capital growth.

“I call it ‘the wave effect’,” she says. “The closer you are to the city, the more expensive and the more desirable a suburb becomes. When they get more expensive, it pushes buyers out to the next ring.”

Leske says that, at the end of the day, you can only buy based on what you can borrow, however real estate agents and buyers’ agents with expert local knowledge can quickly get you up to speed with neighbourhoods you’re not so familiar with.

Lifestyle and life stage

If you’re a single professional your priorities will be different to those of a family with young children or a pair of empty nesters.

In her role as a Brisbane buyer’s agent, Leske asks her clients to fill in a comprehensive questionnaire that details the must-haves and the nice-to-haves. This is a great way to put a filter on your suburb search.

“It helps to see what it is that we really want and what we’re willing to compromise on,” she says.

If close proximity to trains is a deal-breaker, there’s no point considering suburbs without a train station. If you want a big house with a big backyard, you’ll most likely need to head to the mid- to outer-ring suburbs or a regional area.

If you’re keen on sending your kids to a particular public school, you’ll need to buy inside that school zone, and if you’re keen to have the in-laws within a 10-minute drive, you’ll want to find a property within a suitable radius.

Want to live or buy in a certain catchment?

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If you can’t get through your work-from-home day without a break to buy a coffee, you’ll want a good cafe within reach. Similarly, if you want a park or beach or great nightlife within walking distance, or a medical centre or hospital nearby, you’ll need to find a suburb that delivers easy access to these amenities.

If you can’t do without barista coffee, make sure the suburbs on your shortlist have a good cafe culture. Photo: Greg Briggs

Wentriro says public transport, schools, cafes, shops and health services tend to be at the top of many buyers’ wishlists.

If your shortlist includes newer suburbs, he says buyers should look at government planning websites to see what new infrastructure will be delivered in the next five or so years.

Short, medium or long term?

Leske says a key question to ask is, “How long am I going to be here for?”

“Most of my clients say 20 years, so it’s a long-term proposition,” she says. “That means you need to consider what’s likely to happen [in your household] in the medium to long term.”

Many of us grow attached to our neighbourhood and will upsize and downsize within a limited area, so it helps to get the basics right from the get-go. As a young couple with no kids, schools might not be on your radar, but if marriage and a family is looking likely, you’ll want to factor this in to your suburb choice.

“What you need at the age of 40 compared to the age of 60 or 70 is different,” says Wentriro. “But people can live in one suburb their whole lives so they’re looking for that one-stop [solution].”

Choosing the right suburb requires balancing your desired lifestyle and your budget. Photo: iStock

Finding your tribe

It’s common to want to live near like-minded folks, says Wentriro.

If you’re an artist or musician, you might seek out an artistic community. If you’re raising a family, you’ll probably benefit from living close to other families. If you’re retired you may like to have other retirees within easy reach, and if you’ve recently migrated from another country you might enjoy putting down roots in a suburb that already caters to your cultural needs.

Looking for a home with a big backyard in a family-friendly area? You’ll probably need to search within mid- to outer-ring suburbs, or try a regional area. Photo: iStock

Of course, some buyers are searching for true diversity and may concentrate their search in inner-city areas that are home to a broad mix of residents.

Leske says if buyers are confused or overwhelmed as they work their way through potential suburbs, there’s nothing like a local to provide on-the-ground knowledge. 

“Once somebody has lived in a suburb and they’re happy there, they become a great referral for that area,” she says.

How to choose a suburb when buying a home

  • Set a budget based on how much you can borrow.
  • Browse suburbs with median prices that fall within your budget.
  • Determine your priorities based on your lifestyle and life stage.
  • Plan ahead by thinking about how your needs may change in the future.
  • Find a community that caters to your needs.


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