City Beat August 2023: Buyers start to emerge in Melbourne's off the plan market

It's taken a bit of time, but agents are reporting that buyers are starting to come into the market
City Beat August 2023: Buyers start to emerge in Melbourne's off the plan market
Joel Robinson September 4, 2023CITY BEAT

Melbourne has continued to see growth in its unit market, albeit slower than previous months.

CoreLogic's Monthly Hedonic Home Value Index found that value of Melbourne units grew by 0.3 per cent across August, slightly softer than the 0.4 per cent gains in July and one per cent in June.

It was the first time in three months unit growth didn't outstrip house value growth. House values in Melbourne grew 0.6 per cent in August.

Unit values are now 1.6 per cent up over the rolling quarter, and 1.7 per cent year to date. The median value for units in Melbourne is now $603,000.

Read more: City Beat August 2023: Melbourne units outperform houses again as supply problems persist

What's happening in the Melbourne off the plan market?

It's taken a bit of time, but agents are reporting that buyers are starting to come into the market. 

That's what Stephen Bowtell, Director at Jellis Craig Projects, is seeing across a number of his projects. 

"It's a good sign for the market that new buyers are beginning their search," Bowtell says. He adds however that most are new buyers only just starting their journey, and they're not ready to transact.

"That slows down the sales process because those buyers need time to assess all options and spend some time researching the market," Bowtell says. 

But due to the supply crunch in Melbourne, because of the difficult construction environment, there's not a lot of other options on the market, or even coming to the market.

He says when there even a hint of a rate cut, there will be a flurry of both enquiry and transactions.

Bowtell has just launched Kindred, in Bayside Mentone, a collection of just 10 architecturally-designed villas on the park and near the beach.

"This one ticks a lot of boxes," Bowtell says.

"Kindred Mentone stands out from anything that's been done in Mentone before from an architectural standpoint, but it's also one of few residential sites that faces the park, which makes it difficult to repeat."

Read more: Sloane launch 'one of a kind' townhouse development in Melbourne's Mentone Bayside

Colliers National Director Project Marketing Ben Gearing says it's this undersupply of apartments which has driven sales at their two projects in Melbourne currently, Park Quarter on St Kilda's Road by SIDG, and Lendlease's newest tower in their $1.5 billion Collins What redevelopment, Regatta.

Park Quarter has raced to 50 per cent sold having only launched in March, while Regatta hit the market last month and has had "overwhelming interest".

"We are entering a period where there are going to be fewer apartment development completions," Gearing says.

"This lack of supply in and around the CBD and city fringe of Melbourne will add further pressure on rents in an already tight rental market, bringing astute investors out in large numbers."

Gearing has also seen demand however from first time apartment buyers, whether it be downsizers or first home buyers.

"There has been consistent strong interest from owner occupiers searching for quality, liveable residences which includes your first time apartment residents such as downsizers and first homeowners. As the Melbourne apartment market matures we can see increased interest from residents choosing to upgrade from their current apartments and seeking enhanced design, amenity, quality of build and location."

RT Edgar Projects Director Nihal Peter says there's a few factors at play in the off the plan market in Melbourne. Starting from the bottom up, he says first home buyers have no incentive to buy off the plan.

"They’re renting and don’t want to rent, but they don’t want to be buying something which is over 12 months or so away from completion, they want to move now. They need the 10 per cent deposit now because of rising inflation and rising rents. They’re not buying off the plan and they’re buying completed, well priced stock."

Peter says on the flip side, ageing downsizers are always buying off the plan.

"They don’t have mortgages, they’re buying and future proofing, settling at that price, then selling their home when the market is a bit better.

"There’s a big disparity between the bottom end and the higher end of the market. Supply is going down, demand is going up, the Chinese are coming back. We predict the apartments that sell now will be worth more at settlement.

Peter's newest projects in market are Mimosa Row in Carnegie and EIRA Apartments in Bentleigh East, both being developed by ITUM.

Mimosa Row comprises just 40 two and three-bedroom apartments, while EIRA Apartments offers 18 one, two and three-bedroom units.

Tomassi & Co Founder and Director Alby Tomassi says there's plenty of positives to look at in Melbourne’s off the plan property market.

"Forecasts are for 160,000 people to migrate to VIC in the next 12 months, which is 30 per cent of the whole of the country and double pre-COVID levels. The recent interest rate pauses have seen confidence come back into the market.

Tomassi says when we approach the first cut, then it will be game on.

"The new RBA Governor will signal a change in direction at the Central Bank. Whenever there’s a change in leadership in government, it’s generally because the direction wants to change. So I suspect the change of direction will see us go from a rate hiking, inflation controlling RBA to one who will seek to cut rates at the first opportunity.

"As soon as the media start reporting on first rate cuts, demand will far surpass supply, which is worse in Melbourne than in any other capital city."

Tomassi is preparing to launch a boutique project on Fitzroy's Smith Street, and a townhouse project in Mordialloc.

Chad Arbid at Chad Arbid Projects says the RBA's second consecutive decision to hold rates steady in August has sparked increased activity within the market.

"We are now receiving more qualified enquiries as people are able to engage in more effective financial planning. Confidence is reemerging within the market, and individuals are realising that we are either at the pinnacle or very nearly so, within the interest rate cycle."

Arbid is marketing Casa Tranquila in Hampton East, which he says is attracting buyers who want everything that Bayside has to offer.

"It's a true Bayside suburb," Arbid says.

"It shares the Hampton postcode, it's in an area known for parks, the beach, the best schools, restaurants and cafes, all within three or four hundred metres of the front door."

Local downsizers have made up the bulk of enquiry and purchases. There were some first home buyer purchases earlier in the year, but they're not even enquiring now as interest rates have further restricted budgets.

Joel Robinson

Joel Robinson is the Editor in Chief at, managing Urban's editorial team and creating the largest news cycle for the off the plan property market in the country. Joel has been writing about residential real estate for nearly a decade, following a degree in Business Management with a major in Journalism at Leeds Beckett University in England. He specializes in off the plan apartments, and has a particular interest in the development application process for new projects.

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