Melbourne inner city downsizing guide: Secret Agent

Melbourne inner city downsizing guide: Secret Agent
Melbourne inner city downsizing guide: Secret Agent


To downsize or to not downsize?

That is the question many older Australians are asking themselves as they weigh up the benefits and disadvantages of each option. 

While downsizing offers more convenience, one major compromise is potentially moving away from friends in your neighbourhood whom you’ve known for years.

As of July next year, older Australians who are thinking of downsizing their family home into a smaller property may have a financial incentive to do so. They will now be able
to invest up to $300,000 of the money made from the sale into their superannuation without being taxed. *Please seek independent professional advice when contemplating using this method.

A few years ago, Secret Agent published a ‘How To Downsize’ guide. In this report we will revisit the topic, this time focusing on the inner city suburbs and considerations that need to be made if you are looking to downsize into any of these areas.


As the term implies, downsizing means that getting used to a smaller space is an inevitable part of the equation. By moving into the inner city, you will also have to get used to new neighbours, new traffic patterns, new noises, more lights and new distances from old friends. Two of the greatest challenges downsizers will face is negotiating life in a smaller home, and detaching themselves emotionally from the place they are leaving.


It’s not easy to find a home with enough space so you don’t feel cramped, yet small enough to qualify the move as a ‘downsize’. Going from an expansive four bedroom home to a two bedroom apartment that is barely the size of your old living room is not a good idea, and neither is moving into a double-storey terrace with a backyard. 

This includes an increase in three bedroom apartments on offer as well as whole-level apartments occupying the entire floor, giving residents greater privacy, space and a better outlook. Nowadays more developers are shifting towards targeting downsizers instead of investors, allowing older Australians to continually benefit from this trend over the next few years.

Emotional attachments

Many will find that the hardest part about downsizing is leaving behind the emotional connections made to the family home. Full of memories of special milestones, it can be very difficult to let go of not just the house itself but the neighbourhood too.

On the bright side, you can downsize into another area you feel somewhat at home in, such as a place you have fond memories of as a child or young adult. You may have stayed in university housing in Parkville, or worked during your early days in Richmond. It helps to have some history in the area
in terms of replacing one emotional connection with another, however it doesn’t mean that there won’t be huge changes to get used to. As the inner city has transformed dramatically over the past decade and continues to do so, these areas may not be as you remembered them.


There are many benefits of moving into the inner city that will help offset some of the more difficult transitions you need to make when downsizing. Secret Agent has put together a guide of the inner city suburbs to assist you in choosing a place that will suit your lifestyle needs.

Fitzroy North

Good access to parks and gardens, Scotchmer St / St Georges Rd amenities, plenty of smaller terraces, family-oriented neighbourhood, quiet and leafy.


Brunswick St, Johnston St and Gertrude St amenities, close to Carlton Gardens, public transport easily accessible, variety of terraces, low-rise apartments and warehouses to choose from.


Close proximity to the CBD and good access to parks, plenty of amenities on Lygon St and Swanston St, walk to Queen Victoria Market, multitude of public transport options. Only 

downside is that it gets quite noisy and busy, particularly around Melbourne University.

Carlton North & Princes Hill

Rathdowne Village amenities, quiet, leafy and wide streets, family-oriented neighbourhood, mostly period terraces. Demographic includes academics and medical professionals. One drawback is the lack of train access, only accessible via tram.

East Melbourne

Exclusive blue chip neighbourhood, quiet, leafy, walking distance to Fitzroy Gardens and CBD. Variety of older style apartments, Art Deco units, Victorian terraces.

North Melbourne

Queensberry St, Errol St and Victoria St amenities, including Queen Victoria Market, walking distance to the CBD. Mostly quiet except near main roads.


Adjacent to Princes Park and Royal Park, with period terraces, brick apartments and Art Deco units on offer. Demographic includes academics and medical professionals. Mostly quiet and leafy.

Brunswick & Brunswick East

Gentrifying suburbs with large cultural and amenity hub along Sydney Road and Lygon St. Mix of older and younger population. Most apartments of varying quality located closer to main roads ie. Sydney Road and Lygon Street. Good access via train and tram. Busier and noisier near main roads.

Collingwood & Abbotsford

Smith St and Johnston St amenities, convenient access to Yarra River parks on the east. Accessible via both train and tram. Mix of warehouses, terraces and apartments. Mix of younger and older population.

Albert Park & Middle Park

Established, blue chip suburbs with quiet, wide and leafy streets, family and downsizer population. Mostly well-kept period terraces with a few brick and Art Deco apartments, little to no development in these areas. Walk to the beach or Albert Park. No train access.

Port Melbourne & South Melbourne

Bay St and Clarendon St amenities, walking distance to
the beach or several parks. No train access. Mix of newer apartments and townhouses, and older terraces. Generally established, more hustle and bustle than Albert Park and Middle Park and a transient population. 


Multiple public transport options across the suburb. Variety of amenities along Victoria St, Bridge Rd and Swan St. Mix of younger and older population, diverse demographic overall. Plenty of apartments, townhouses, terraces and warehouses to choose from.

South Yarra & Prahran

Established, leafy suburbs with a mix of younger and older population. Plenty of amenities along Chapel St, Toorak Rd, Commercial Rd and High St however also quite busy and noisy particularly at night.


Besides location, there are other major considerations you will need to make when deciding to downsize into the inner city:

  • Floor plan / layout of the home: With the right design, a small home can feel big; likewise, a big home can feel small if not designed well. Choose one that suits your daily habits at home. If you love to host dinners and have guests over often, you’d want a good kitchen with a spacious dining area. If you have a creative hobby, perhaps you’ll want to convert an extra bedroom into your own studio.
  • Less cars, less parking space: It may take some getting used to the tight street parking in suburbs such as Carlton and Fitzroy. You may also choose to give up one car (or altogether), as car sharing is popular in the inner city as is collaborative consumption of other items.
  • Noise: The inner city will always be noisier than a suburban neighbourhood. Consider proximity to trams, restaurants, main roads, and how loud they are when you are indoors with all windows shut. If you have chosen an apartment, how well the walls (and ceiling) have been insulated will also make a difference as to the extent you’ll hear your neighbours.
  • Light and darkness: A northern aspect provides desirable sunshine during the day! If your bedroom window faces a main road, the blinds or curtains may not be good enough to completely block out the light from a street lamp, which may disturb your sleep. Be careful of potential development sites which may block some of your natural light in the future.
  • Access: Think about the route from the closest grocer back to your apartment. Ideally, you don’t want to have to walk too far, and a lift may be necessary if you live higher than the first floor.
  • Storage: No matter how hard you try, a 100sqm apartment will never fit as much in as your double storey suburban mansion. Consider having less things but of a higher quality so they last longer.
  • Pets in apartments: Your pets may not be happy in an apartment if they are used to having lots of room to run around. Some apartments also have strict rules against having pets in the building.


If you’ve set your mind on downsizing and you’re not sure how to prepare for the move, start by writing a list of ‘must-have’s that are non-negotiable when searching for a place. These will be the things that are most important to your future comfort. Don’t give in to these non-negotiables! Then write a list of things you will be willing to compromise on.

When you have found an inner city area you think you would like to move to, spend time in that suburb to get a proper feel for it before deciding to buy.

Stay in a hotel or Airbnb for 1-2 weeks to feel what it’s like to live through the weekdays, weekends, mornings and nights.

If you’re not in a rush, you may rent for a few months in that area to ensure that it meets your non-negotiables in the long term. It also gives you an opportunity to try out other property types, for example if you’ve never lived in an apartment, or warehouse conversion.


When entering a situation involving both gains and losses,

as humans we tend to focus on the latter. So when making a move into a new environment, like downsizing into the inner city, we need to minimise the impact of the negatives on our lifestyle. If noise is something that is very disruptive to you, then you’d be wise to avoid buying along a busy road, or near a shopping strip. If you don’t like being too close to your neighbours, then perhaps apartment living might not be for you.

With that said, inner city living has never been more popular. As the market continues to make it easier for older residents to settle comfortably near the city, it’s only a matter of time before downsizing becomes less of a difficult choice, and more of a natural transition. 

For more information, click here.

Melbourne Apartment Market

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