05.31.2023 Local News

1993 v 2023: What’s Changed Over My 30 Years In Real Estate?

1993 v 2023: What’s Changed Over My 30 Years In Real Estate?

This year marks my third decade working in Sydney real estate.

Over that time, the market has changed out of sight. We look at what’s changed over the past 30 years.

In 1993, I began my career in Sydney real estate, and it was a very different time from today. I take a look at just how much the property market has changed over the past three decades in Sydney’s eastern suburbs.

Finding the right property

I think one of the biggest changes is the way we search for and ‘consume’ property. Today, browsing properties and imagining life within them has become almost a hobby for many people. But it was a very different story when I began.

Back in 1993, there was no internet (at least it wasn’t widely available), and there were no property portals. People usually found a home by searching the classifieds, usually in the Weekend edition of the Sydney Morning Herald (anyone over 40 will no doubt remember just how fat that Saturday paper was) or in the Wentworth Courier.

By and large, these ads weren’t the kind of image-driven colourful ads we see online today. While Domain Magazine launched in 1993 and showcased some properties in detail, most property ads were just a few in black and white sentences describing the key features. If you were on the hunt for a home, you really had to be prepared to spend Saturdays driving from property to property to even get a feel for what homes were like.

These days you can instantly see most homes for sale in your area just by visiting Domain, realestate.com.au or agent’s websites (we list many of our off-market sales online, and you can even have them delivered into your inbox).

Increasingly, many homes are also advertised using social media, video and virtual tours so that we don’t have to even leave home to see them (although we always recommend you usually do.)

That means visuals matter a lot more than they did when I began. And this has spawned whole new industries in property styling, photography, drone imagery and other design functions for the property.

Changing property expectations

Technology has made our lives much easier, but it’s also given us different expectations about how our home should look. When I started in 1993, ‘technology’ often meant a dishwasher and space for a VCR. There were very few ‘home theatres’, and there were certainly no ‘smart homes’.

I’ve noticed that this has coincided with people having a lot more money to spend on a home. It’s true that this is partly because – even with recent rate rises – interest rates are lower today than when I began (the official cash rate went as high as 7.5% in 1994). But it’s also because a lot of eastern suburbs residents have become wealthier.

This doesn’t just mean we want technology in our homes, it also often means that we want a higher level of finishes, with architect-designed renovations, swimming pools and landscaped gardens much more common. Even though there has recently been a trend towards tiny homes, it often means we want more room to move. This has been particularly evident since the pandemic, with more buyers wanting a home office, as well as outdoor space, and many embarking on their own “grand design”.

The rise of the beaches and changing prestige market

Our eastern beaches have always been fantastic places to live. But when I began working in 1993, they didn’t carry quite the same cachet they do now. As I wrote recently, suburbs such as Bronte and Clovelly have been among the best-performing in the country over the past 30 years, with prices rising an astonishing 1,500% over that time.

When I began working, the absolute blue chip suburbs were limited to the harbourside and parkside. Suburbs such as Centennial Park, Woollahra, Vaucluse, Bellevue Hill, Double Bay, Rose Bay, Point Piper and Darling Point carried the most prestige. Today, however, you can add beachside suburbs such as Bondi, Clovelly, Bronte and Tamarama to that list. You can also add the Sydney CBD and inner city suburbs.

The other point worth mentioning is that many of the most expensive properties that sell these days aren’t mansions at all. They’re designer penthouses in exclusive blocks. It seems our tastes have changed and become more diverse over the past 30 years.

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A new cosmopolitanism

I know there has been a lot of controversy about lockdown laws and complaints about there being nothing to do after 10pm. However, the reality is that Sydney is a lot more vibrant and cosmopolitan now than when I started working.

One of the reasons the beaches have become so popular is that they now have so much to offer away from the beach too, such as bars, cafes, restaurants and other attractions. When I started in 1993, the main stretch of Bronte was still home to drycleaners and a general store. Five Ways at Randwick had little other than a petrol station, pub and a few shops.

There simply weren’t the same number of things to do around town, so it has definitely changed for the better on the lifestyle.

More people, more properties… but fewer properties for sale

Sydney’s new cosmopolitanism has partly been triggered by a sheer rise in the number of people living here. In 1993, the city’s population was about 3.7 million, today it is closer to 5.3 million.

Census data reveals that in 2001 (the earliest available census data), Woollahra and Waverley and Randwick Councils had a combined population of 230,872. Now their combined population is 256,353 – or 25,481 more residents.

Our area’s growing population has been accompanied by a growing number of dwellings, especially apartments. In 2021, there were 28,527 apartments in the Randwick Council area compared with 24,757 in 1993.

But even though this is happening, there are fewer – rather than more – properties for sale. We’re holding onto properties for longer than three years ago, often choosing to renovate them rather than move on. That means, while there may be more work for architects and builders, there’s actually less for real estate agents.

Price growth and much bigger mortgages

Finally, I have to mention that, in line with each of these trends, Sydney’s median property price has risen almost exponentially since I began working.

In 1993, the median Clovelly house price (and that’s a house, not a dwelling) was $273,000; in Bronte, it was $358,500, and in North Bondi, it was $295,000. If you bought the median Clovelly house on a 30-year home loan, you would just be coming to the end of your mortgage term. Not that it might matter too much: if you borrowed 80% of the home’s value at the time, your monthly repayments as your mortgage comes to and end would be around $1,250 a month on a variable rate. 12 months ago, they would have been closer to $800 a month.

Now that the suburb median is closer to $3.96 million, so someone who bought today’s median Clovelly house on the same terms would face mortgage repayments of around $18,000 a month.

Again, though, that isn’t necessarily comparing apples with apples, especially given that today’s houses tend to be bigger, better renovated and more luxurious than 30 years ago. So in many ways, we can’t even compare today’s house prices with earlier ones.

In short…

While the market has changed out of sight over the past three decades, one thing has remained the same. The best way to achieve the best price remains using a quality agent with connections and local knowledge to attract interest from the right buyers.

If you’re thinking of buying or selling in Sydney’s eastern suburbs, get in touch