by ANNABEL HENNESSEY
A RAPID rise in the number of people living solo is shaking up the Perth real estate market. The speedy growth is driving up the number of one-bedroom apartments and smaller housing lots, experts say.
New Australian Bureau of Statistics forecasts show there will be a dramatic rise in the number of sole-occupant households in the next 25 years – surging 65 per cent to hit 3.4 million l by 2040. WA is already ahead of the trend, with the highest rate of solo first-homebuyers in the country.
According to data from Mortgage Choice, last year more than one in three WA first-homebuyers purchased alone – a 37 per cent increase from the year before.
Solo home buyers are driving demand for one-bedroom apartments
Mark Hay Realty Group director, Mark Hay, said he was now selling to as many solo buyers as he was couples.
“Young people might be putting off marriage and children for later, but that doesn’t mean they necessarily want to put off property purchasing,” Mr Hay said.
“Today’s youth are becoming more investment focused and are purchasing not only to have a place of their own, but because they want to be engaged in the market.”
Mr Hay said the jump in single occupants was also being caused by a rise in divorcees and widowers buying property.
Apartment developer Paul Blackburne said he had also seen an increase in the number of solo buyers and was adjusting developments to meet the demand. He said in Subiaco’s seven-level Encore project, about a third of buyers had been sole occupants.
“In some of our city projects we are now doing up to 50 per cent single-bedroom apartments to accommodate the demand,” Mr Blackburne said.
“We’re also thinking about ways to create a community feel within the complexes. We’re now often putting $1-2 million into common areas and creating websites and blogs (buyers) can communicate on.
“While more people are living alone, we still think they want a sense of community or the opportunity to get to know their neighbours living in an apartment.”
Willing Property Group director Tim Willing believed the depiction of “modern apartment living” in film and TV was influencing more people to live alone. He said the rise of solo-occupancy would lead the percentage of apartments in the new-build market to grow from its current 15 per cent to the 30-50 per cent found in Sydney and Melbourne.
Property Council executive director Joe Lenzo said while WA typically had a lower rate of one-bedroom apartments than interstate, this would shift in coming years.
“There has been some conservatism in WA with one-bedroom apartments, but I think we’re slowly moving away from that,” Mr Lenzo said.
“The one-bedrooms being created aren’t cramped bedsits of the past, but high-quality designs.”
Builder Dale Alcock said WA was no longer dominated by a 4×2 market.
He said that in the past 12 months, 53 per cent of buyers for his most popular three-bedroom, two-bathroom design had been single purchasers.
“There are young people who are more career-focused and perhaps aren’t ready to commit to buy with a partner, but still want to get in the market early,” Mr Alcock said.
“The days of just the 4×2 are gone.”
Land developer Nigel Satterley said cottage lots at his estates were becoming increasingly popular.
Blocks from 225sq m-320sq m had become popular in the past five years among solo buyers looking for affordability, he said.
Happy tale of two young trendsetters
SOLO homebuyers Callum McGregor and Leah Wright are the face of Perth’s property future.
The two don’t know each other, but their property journeys represent two trends driving today’s young property buyer.
Ms Wright, 24, an office worker, has just a bought a one-bedroom off-the-plan apartment for $450,000 in The Gardens complex in Attadale.
For Ms Wright, being close to the city action and living a “lock- and-leave” lifestyle were top priorities.
“My parents have been property investors, so I could see the advantages of entering the market,” she said.
“But I wanted a low-maintenance property, that would be non-fuss if I want to go travelling.
“I love the idea of the apartment lifestyle.
“I picked Attadale because there are less units available in the area, so I thought down the track that would make it a better investment.”
Mr McGregor, 23, on the other hand, is currently in the process of buying a three-bedroom. one-bathroom house in Beldon on a 700sq m block for $430,000.
An electrician, Mr McGregor said he prioritised block space when choosing the property, about 25km north of the Perth CBD.
“It needs a little bit of work, but I wanted to have the big backyard and to get in at that price, I knew I’d have to go for a much older home,” Mr McGregor said.
“I’m happy to go for an old-school home and put the work in to do it up if it means the extra space.”
Ms Wright and Mr McGregor are both living with their parents and said staying at home longer was crucial in helping them save.
“It would have been a lot more difficult to get a deposit if I’d been renting, but I’m looking forward to the independence of living alone,” Mr McGregor said.
Featured on Perthnow.com.au on 18 April 2015.