The seven reasons Wollongong is set to shine: Rich Harvey

The seven reasons Wollongong is set to shine: Rich Harvey
The seven reasons Wollongong is set to shine: Rich Harvey

GUEST OBSERVER

If you are looking for a home or property investment that is affordable, has great lifestyle appeal and a solid future, then look no further than 90 minutes south of Sydney to Wollongong. Our local buyer's agent has helped us pin point seven reasons why we believe this area is set to perform.

Wollongong is perhaps best known for its steel works at Port Kembla. Since the original furnace opened in 1930, Wollongong has burgeoned into a vibrant city (officially recognised in 1942) while retaining its relaxed coastal lifestyle.

Since the late 1970’s, Wollongong underwent dramatic change as its economy diversified and transitioned from predominately manufacturing to other industries such as tourism, information technology, hospitality, health services, education, construction, public administration and telecommunications.

This led to large investment in infrastructure, such as the electrification of the Sydney to Wollongong rail line in 1985. The population rapidly expanded as Sydney became within commuting distance and Greater Wollongong is now Australia’s 10th largest city with a population of almost 300,000 people. The Wollongong local government area (LGA) is forecast to grow by around 16.5% over the next 20 years while the CBD was predicted to double between the end of 2014 and mid 2017 thanks to the refurbishment of Crown Street Mall and a number of large apartment buildings due for completion during that time.

Wollongong has changed significantly over the last few decades and I believe real estate in the region is set to shine in 2016 and beyond. Here are the top reasons why:

1.  The ripple effect

The median Sydney house price has grown by around 50% since the start of the growth cycle in 2012. The growth cycle started in the inner ring suburbs and then gradually moved to the middle and outer ring suburbs. Many people are now priced out of the Sydney market and looking to buy in regional areas such as Wollongong, the Southern Highlands and Newcastle.

Wollongong has the unique benefit of being only 80km or 90 minutes via road or rail to Sydney, which allows residents to commute to Sydney. In fact, around 20,000 Wollongong residents do this, which allows them to access higher wages in Sydney while having the attractive lifestyle and lower living costs of Wollongong.

The commute time will be drastically reduced in the future as Stage 2 of the WestConnex project (opening in 2019) will have a ‘tunnel stub’ at Kogarah Golf Course near Sydney airport for the proposed ‘Southern Connector’ freeway linking the M5 in Sydney with the F6 in Wollongong. Once the exact route is announced, Wollongong prices will boom.

2.  Value for money

With a median price of $665,000, you can buy a house in Wollongong for around two-thirds of a Sydney house, which has a median price of $987,000. This is despite being a large city with all the associated amenities and enviable coastal position. However, growth has started to pick up as people realise the value and lifestyle on offer, so I don’t expect this large gap to remain for long.

The northern suburbs are the most expensive in Wollongong as there is a natural geographical boundary between the ocean and the escarpment which limits supply. They also have beautiful beaches, picturesque ocean pools, seaside restaurants and easy access to hiking trails in the Illawarra State Recreation Reserve. Properties located east of the train line are naturally more expensive than those on the western side. Houses in Fairy Meadow, Towradgi and Corrimal are relatively good value as they are priced around the Wollongong average, are relatively close to the CBD and have their own beaches and rail stations. Bellambi is also worth a look as it’s only one station past Corrimal but about $100,000 cheaper.

The Steelworks is located south of the CBD at Port Kembla, Southern suburbs with good prospects include Figtree and Unanderra which have yields for houses and apartments of around 5%. Further south, especially to the west of Lake Illawarra, many developers are offering house and land packages however some of these lack differentiation from their peers, hindering future capital growth. The $1.5 billion Shell Cove project is expected to be completed in 2019, which will include residential property from houses to high density apartments, a town square, shopping precinct, hotel and marina with 300 berths.

3.  Relaxed coastal lifestyle, beaches and entertainment options

Locals love the relaxed Wollongong lifestyle. Beaches and shops aren’t crowded and traffic is a breeze compared to Sydney. From cinemas to golf clubs, art galleries and museums including the interactive Science Centre and Planetarium, Wollongong has it all. The city is now a destination rather than just a cheaper alternative to Sydney and its tourism industry has flourished as a result.

4.  First-class university, hospital and excellent schools

Wollongong University was ranked in the top 10 universities in Australia in 2015 and has over 30,000 students enrolled with almost 500 degrees on offer.

Wollongong Hospital has over 500 beds and recently underwent at $106 million capital works program including the construction of the Illawarra Elective Surgical Services Centre which opened in December 2015. The state-of-the-art facility houses over 100 new beds and a larger intensive care unit (ICU). It can now offer more advanced services, especially in urology and vascular surgery, without referring patients to Sydney.

There are also many well regarded schools in Wollongong including Smiths Hill High School which ranked in the top 50 NSW schools in 2015.  Top class education and hospital facilities are good drivers of local property growth.

5.  Great family and community atmosphere

Wollongong has a fantastic community atmosphere. The area is popular with families and couples, which are the most common demographic of the city. The council also puts on regular free events for locals from community walks to live music performances and beach clean-ups, which help to create a sense of community spirit. The council also provides the free ‘Gong’ shuttle bus which loop in both directions every 10 to 20 minutes from Wollongong Station to Wollongong University via Wollongong Hospital, Burelli Street and the Innovation Campus.

Compared to regional NSW, Wollongong has a higher proportion of 18 to 49 year olds and a lower proportion of other age groups. This is a bright sign for the future because this includes parents in their child bearing years and the majority of the working population.  

6.  Heart of the Illawarra region

Wollongong is the central hub for the Illawarra region and benefits from both locals and tourists from the Royal National Park in the north to Kiama, Gerringong, Nowra and Jervis Bay in the south.

There are over 80,000 jobs in Wollongong and approximately one quarter of the people that work in the city live outside the area. As well as the university and hospital, Wollongong also has all the major stores including department stores Myer, David Jones, Target and Big W.

7.  Local attractions

You can easily spend a week hiking the trails around Wollongong and exploring the beaches, coves and ocean pools dotted along the coast.

The Sublime Point walking track winds though lush coastal rainforest and takes you deep into the Illawarra escarpment.

Wollongong's Blue Mile located along Cliff Road is the best vantage point from which to absorb the beauty of the South Pacific Ocean to the east and the magnificent of the Illawarra Escarpment to the west. The newly constructed boardwalk along the harbour and foreshore is perfect for a casual walk or jog. You can even stop for a coffee or delicious lunch at one of the many seaside dining options along the way. While you’re there, stop by the historic Belmore Basin Lighthouse for a trip back in time and stop to enjoy the view.

Alternatively, the Grand Pacific Drive between Wollongong and Sydney offers great views from the car and takes in breathtaking coastal views and passes over Sea Cliff Bridge – a beautiful road suspended out from the cliff.

There are too many attractions to list here so make sure to leave plenty of time when you visit, because when it comes time to leave you will wish you didn’t have to!


Rich Harvey is managing director, www.propertybuyer.com.au

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Wollongong Property Investors

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