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Industry insights and reflections from an agent who’s seen it all

By Geoff Smith

I’ve worked in real estate for the majority of my working life, and it’s safe to say a lot has happened in the industry during that time. From market fluctuations and economic disruptions to technological advances that have propelled the industry into the digital age, there have been plenty of changes and challenges. However, like many industries, real estate tends to follow a familiar cycle. Once you’ve been around long enough, you’ve typically seen it all. So, as the industry ebbs and flows, an agent who has seen it all before is better able to read the current market and predict its future direction.
Moreover, with experience comes confidence, so when you’ve “been there, done that” you’re also better prepared to take each change in your stride and confidently tackle each challenge.

Change is inevitable, but it is also something to be welcomed

When I first started out, basic units on the Lower North Shore were fetching between $50,000 and $80,000. Nice semi-detached homes in the area surrounding our Mosman office were fetching around $150,000 and the average price for a good house was generally around $450,000. At that time, homes that were worth over $2 million were few and far between.
Not surprisingly, the last few decades have brought some phenomenal changes in the Lower North Shore’s real estate landscape – not the least of which has been the increase in land value and house prices. Not only have I seen these changes, but I’ve also been at the forefront of them.

In 1994 one of the best homes in Mosman, which was also widely considered to be one of the best homes in all of Sydney, sold for $4.6 million. At the time, it was the highest price ever paid for any home in Mosman. My team sold that house in 2018 for $25 million, as a knock-over.

These days the median sale price for a one-bedroom unit in Mosman or Cremorne is over $700,000, while two-bedroom units are averaging around $1.2 million. The Lower North Shore’s average house price in the current market ranges from $2.5-$2.7 million at the lower end, in Middle Cove, Cammeray, Neutral Bay and Naremburn, to around $3.4-$3.5 million in McMahons Point and Cremorne, up to an average of $4.5-$4.6 million in Mosman and Lavender Bay. That said, my team and I have frequently negotiated sales in excess of $10 million for some spectacular homes in and around the Lower North Shore.
Of course, the market has been through its ups and down over the last 30 years, but the trend has definitely been positive – and I feel privileged to have been right here, in the thick of it, helping to drive that growth.

Some things change, some stay the same

While there have been big changes in house prices and land values over the years, at least one thing has remained fairly consistent… demand. The number of buyers has always exceeded the number of properties for sale. The fact that there is always a shortage of properties available tends to fuel that high demand even more, because it shows that buying into the area is a good long-term, tax-free investment.

Something else that has remained consistent over the last 30 years is the buyer profile, which means that the area’s demographic hasn’t changed much either. The majority of buyers – accounting for 70-85% of the buyer pool – has generally been families already residing within a 5km radius, who are either upsizing or downsizing. In more recent times we have seen a significant number of families who, after having lived in the same home for 30 years or more, have made the decision to downsize – however, they still don’t want to leave the area.

The real estate market is, and always will be, strong on the Lower North Shore and, as a local – someone who doesn’t just work on the Lower North Shore, but who lives here too – the reasons why property in this area is so highly sought after and demand continues to outstrip supply, are clear to me.

The Lower North Shore boasts some pretty big bonuses: the area has relatively unfettered access to Sydney Harbour, which means the iconic views of both the harbour and Sydney Harbour Bridge are easily found from many vantage points; there is convenient access to all parts of the inner city, either by car or ferry, and the western corridor is now easily accessible too; and there is an abundance of great schools and amenities. Despite being just minutes from the city, the tree-lined streets and coastal vistas mean you never feel like you’re hemmed in or living right next door to the biggest city in Australia.

No matter which suburb of the Lower North Shore you’re in, everything you could possibly need can be found close by – from great shopping, excellent eateries and every kind of business and service, to fantastic recreational activities and entertainment. Luna Park and Taronga Zoo are just down the road; there are more than a few marinas in the area, each with its own drawcards – some even have a restaurant and entertainment; and there are plenty of parks, beachside cafes, and cultural attractions. If, like me, you can head to beautiful Balmoral Beach to enjoy a walk, swim or grab a coffee and take a relaxed stroll to Rocky Point, to just sit and take in the views; or play a round of golf at one of the Lower North Shore’s many golf courses.

But there’s no need to simply take my word for it. Domain’s Liveable Sydney 2019 – a follow-up to Liveable Sydney 2016 – was a study that used 16 key indicators to rank Sydney’s 569 suburbs for liveability, and it would have come as absolutely no surprise to anyone who lives here that, in both studies, 7 of the top 10 suburbs voted most liveable are on the Lower North Shore. Even more impressively, the Lower North Shore has taken out the top 2 positions on both occasions.

The future looks bright for the sunny Lower North Shore

With consistent demand, a fantastic location, and all the benefits that its suburbs have to offer, the enduring popularity of the Lower North Shore is assured. In fact, I believe it will become more popular than ever in the coming years and that this is, at least in part, due to the current COVID situation.

If nothing else, COVID-19 has shown what a great investment real estate can be, particularly when that investment is made in an established, highly sought-after area in one of the best cities in the world. When many other parts of our everyday lives are uncertain, and we’re increasingly being encouraged to stay at home or within our local areas, investing in a good home in a fantastic area makes sense.

If the last 12 months have taught us anything, it’s that we need to be happy in our home and our local area. You only need to take a stroll down any street in Mosman right now, and see the number of homes that are currently being renovated or rebuilt, to know that this is an area that people want to stay in. With its open spaces, leafy streets, enviable harbour views and proximity to the inner city, there are few suburbs that equal it and, especially during lockdown, the benefits of being close to plenty of beaches, parks, open spaces, and outdoor recreational facilities cannot be underestimated.

That’s not to say that the Lower North Shore, or its property market, has been unaffected by the upheaval of the last 12 months. However, through a mixture of hard work, extensive experience, and an unfaltering commitment to serving both our clients and our community, my team have yielded some incredibly positive results for buyers and sellers alike. In Mosman alone, we have sold over 80 properties over the last 12 months, spending an average of just 29 days on the market and achieving some great sale prices – well above asking price – on behalf of our vendors too.

If you’re looking to buy into the Lower North Shore in the coming years, the one crucial piece of advice I would give is this: don’t overextend yourself. While it’s not hard to pick up a great home loan deal at the moment, the financial situation cannot stay as it is now, forever. The last 18 months have shown us all that there are plenty of unknowns, and there is always the potential for unforeseen circumstances to rear up and catch us by surprise when we least expect it.
Having said that, if you do have the genuine capacity to pay a little more for the “right home”, and you are looking at it from a long-term perspective, not only will it end up being one of the best investments you ever make but, in a few years, I can almost guarantee that you’ll look back on it as the best decision you’ve ever made.

“Support local” for local knowledge and personalised support

I’ve been completely immersed in the Lower North Shore area for well over two decades now, both living and working here. I haven’t simply watched the Lower North Shore grow, I’m pleased to say that I’ve played an active part in driving that growth and, in the process, I’ve shared all the benefits that this fantastic part of Sydney has to offer.
My team and I have built a strong reputation within the community for unparalleled levels of professionalism, expertise, and in-depth local knowledge. We pride ourselves on taking the time to establish meaningful connections with our clients – both buyers and sellers – and develop mutually-beneficial, long-lasting relationships.
Just as every home is different, so too are our clients, and my team and I use our extensive experience to understand the needs of buyers and sellers alike and we take great care to match the right people to the right property, so that we can achieve a great outcome for everyone.

When you want to get the best result possible when selling your home it pays to go with a seasoned agent that has plenty of local experience and knowledge, and that is definitely an area where my team and I shine.

Geoff Smith, Director
Ray White Lower North Shore Group
0418 643 923

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