Recent reports reveal that Australia has overtaken the US as titleholder for ‘home to the world’s largest houses’. Large McMansions on expansive suburban blocks have long been held as the ideal ‘great Australian dream’, while smaller inner city apartments have copped a pretty bad rap as the cheap and nasty end of the property market.
BY MICHAEL YARDNEY
However times are changing, with many homebuyers and tenants forced to reflect on whether their priority is square footage and a big backyard in the burbs or getting into a property without breaking the budget.
Suddenly that one-bedroom apartment seems a lot more appealing.
While many developed countries have embraced the virtues of high-density accommodation clustered around major cities – think New York, Paris, London and Tokyo – here in Australia our culture has been based on backyards, barbeques and open family spaces.
Now a demographic shift is occurring though, with more single person households and childless couples choosing to live in and around our big cities where employment and lifestyle factors are big drawcards.
Figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) reveal that the number of one-person households will surge to between three million and 3.6 million by 2031; a dramatic shift when you consider that in 2006 only 1.9 million people lived alone.
This massive increase is due to a number of factors including:
- Gen X’ers downsizing as their children leave the family home.
- A forecast jump in the number of DINKS (Double Income No Kids). According to the ABS, couple-only households are set to overtake the number of families with offspring in the next two or three years and it’s expected DINKS will make up 60 per cent of all couple-only households by 2031.
- A rapidly growing population and continuing housing shortage in some of our major cities.
- Ongoing affordability issues and increasing rental prices forcing many to rethink their size requirements.
Demand for one-bedroom apartments, which skeptics have long considered to be less desirable, is set to soar as many Australians adjust their ideals according to what they can afford. And one of the questions they’ll be asking is: do I really need that extra bedroom?
In the past singles and couples have, by and large, sought out two-bedroom apartments with the perception that they offer larger living spaces and the convenience of extra storage. However with median price tags for such real estate heading upwards of $500,000 and rents soaring over $500 per week in many desirable locations, the affordability barrier is encouraging many tenants, investors and homebuyers to accept one-bedroom units as a viable alternative.
Recognising this growing trend, developers are jumping on the bandwagon and including more one-bedroom units in their large-scale projects. But be wary… the price of many of these new apartments is going up as their size is going down.
So do one-bedroom apartments make good, affordable investments? Is there enough ongoing future demand from tenants and owner-occupiers alike to ensure they perform as long term cash cows? The simple answer is yes!
Why? Because affordability means more owner-occupier buyers will be pushed into this type of real estate as they sacrifice size for location, thereby increasing demand and placing upward pressure on prices. These apartments are often located closer to the city and major work nodes as well as universities and hospitals, in areas that generally have efficient transport connections, and plenty of retail facilities and social amenity; all key elements high on the list of young buyers.
In addition, tenants seeking rental accommodation in and around desirable lifestyle locations will look for affordable one-bedroom alternatives, meaning investors will have a large tenant pool to help pay the mortgage.
Sure, one-bedroom accommodation caters to a narrow demographic of one and two person households, but this is a growing demographic and I have to say that some of my best performing investments over the last few years have been one-bedroom apartments. They attract a diverse range of tenants, including Gen Y’s making the break from mum and dad, young professional couples, middle-aged singles and downsizing baby boomers.
A few words of warning:
- Small spaces can either be highly functional or incredibly pokey, meaning the design and layout of your apartment is critical.
- Avoid studio apartments. They’re too tiny, the banks don’t like them and they’re very hard to onsell. Instead go for something that offers at least 50 square metres of indoor space and if you can manage a balcony and plenty of clever storage options, all the better. Off-street parking is a desired bonus, but not necessarily required if close to transport.
- Steer clear of new and off-the-plan developments in our major capital cities. Especially in Melbourne and Brisbane, which both have a looming oversupply.
- Avoid the large generic developments sold off the plan in the center of major cities. While these might seem shiny and new, they quickly lose their lustre when people realise they lack character and the timeless appeal that puts property in continuous strong demand. Usually the majority of buyers in these soulless complexes are investors, while owner-occupiers – the true driving force behind real estate values – tend to stay well away in preference of something more established or in a boutique block.
So next time you’re shopping for an investment remember that it’s not the size of the property that counts, it’s the size of the profit you’ll realise at the end of the day!
What do you think? Will one-bedroom apartments be in demand in the future? What type of property will make the best investment going forward?
Michael Yardney is a director of Metropole Property Investment Strategists who create wealth for their clients through independent, unbiased property advice and advocacy. He is best-selling author, one of Australia’s leading experts in wealth creation through property and writes the Property Investment Update blog.